How A Secret Google Geofence Warrant Helped Capture the Ciot Riot Mob


For many suspects, the FBI eventually gathered an extensive set of Google data, including recovery numbers and emails, and dates where the accounts were created and last accessed. Some court submissions even recall that FBI agents may see a field called “User Deleted Locations,” even if it doesn’t specify what it means. It cannot be determined whether this data came from the initial geofence warrant, a follow-up, or traditional search warrants after the suspects were identified.

If, as can be seen, the DOJ uses geofence war data to build a searchable database of suspects, this is the first known example, according to legal experts.

“It’s rare to hear about it, but it’s worth remembering that all of this situation isn’t uncommon,” said Tim O’Brien, a technology industry executive who now works on Microsoft’s AI policy, who studied geofence warrants at the University of Washington School of Law. “If I were law enforcement, I would argue that a three -step process is not necessary in this case, because once you step inside the Capitol, you become a suspect or witness.”

Others saw the beginning of a slippery slope. “When law enforcement and prosecutors see what they can do in an unusual case, it’s usually a mob and then a routine case,” said a digital forensics attorney who asked not to be named. “I don’t think you just see it in murders, you might start seeing it in car thefts. There’s no reaction to it.”

Google issued a statement: “We have a meticulous process for geofence warrants designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting important law enforcement work. To the extent that we disclose any data in response to a geofence warrant, we always create anonymous data as a preliminary step in the process. Then, any production of additional information is a separate step ordered by the order or a new court order. ”

Google also says court orders are often accompanied by gag orders that prevent the recipient from discussing it.

The DOJ did not respond to requests for comment.

Geofence warnings are often submitted before defense advisers have joined, are often sealed from public scrutiny for many years, and there is not much scrutiny of their constitutionality or applicability. The law that governs them, the Stored Communications Act, was passed in 1986, before smartphones, Wi-Fi, or the widespread use of GPS, and it hasn’t happened much since.

However, the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and Google at the DOJ have quietly devised their own scheme for processing geofence warrants, which have been accepted by most courts to date.

The fact that Google has at least made the DOJ obtain search warrants for its data is a very good move, according to Tokson. “But if we rely on giant tech companies to protect people’s privacy against the government, that’s a shaky proposal,” he said. “These companies depend too much on the government for business, and they can’t be controlled until they die.”

More than 600 people have been arrested so far, and no fewer than 185 gisuhan, in connection with the Capitol violation, in the most recent criminal complaint using Google’s geofence data filed last week.

Meanwhile, the Capitol’s secret geofence orders have not yet been identified themselves. In April, The New York Times thinks it is traced to a and submitted a motion to interpret it. The order was made for an unrelated drug trafficking case. Access to geofence data, as information flows in one direction.


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