KEYWORD WARRANTS: Google monitors your search terms and secretly turns you over to the feds if you enter certain keywords
10/07/2021 // JD Heyes // Views

If our founders somehow managed to be reincarnated and took a look around at the country they bequeathed us, they would be amazed -- and angry as well as disappointed -- at how far we have allowed our leaders to stray from the Constitution.

The 'tyranny of the majority' that James Madison feared would become evident to them immediately, as they watched how the rights of certain groups were trampled in favor of majority rule. But also, they would be appalled at how powerful the federal government has become despite specific language in the Constitution that sought to ensure that never happened, including serial and frequent disregard for basic civil liberties and protections.

Like privacy.

The Fourth Amendment states clearly: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

That seems fairly straightforward and clear. So why, then, are search giants like Google turning over user search term data to the Feds even when there is no "probable cause" to do so and when many people have used the site under the firm expectation of being "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects?"

That's a great question and certainly someone from the government needs to answer it because that's exactly what's happening, as reported by American Wire:


The federal government has covertly issued warrants requiring Google to give up user information on people searching for specific terms and information, generating concerns among privacy advocates that users may inadvertently be caught up in criminal probes at a higher frequency than once believed.

Forbes reported Tuesday that federal authorities have begun using what is called “keyword warrants” which require the tech behemoth to give up data on users who were reportedly searching for a victim’s name or address during a particular timeframe, according to a court document that was unsealed by mistake.

“Trawling through Google’s search history database enables police to identify people merely based on what they might have been thinking about, for whatever reason, at some point in the past,” said Jennifer Granick, a surveillance and cybersecurity attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, in an interview with the outlet.

“This never-before-possible technique threatens First Amendment interests and will inevitably sweep up innocent people, especially if the keyword terms are not unique and the time frame is not precise. To make matters worse, police are currently doing this in secret, which insulates the practice from public debate and regulation,” she noted further.

Forbes managed to discover what was taking place by accident; the Justice Department inadvertently unsealed court documents related to a 2019 case in Wisconsin involving the alleged kidnapping and sexual abuse of a minor girl and the documents revealed that investigators used the warrants to see who may have searched for the girl's information including name and address.

The problem, according to privacy advocates, is the same one that always crops up involving scooping of electronic data: People who have done nothing wrong are identified as well, which is a blatant constitutional rights violation.

Forbes noted that “another disturbing aspect” to the Wisconsin case is that the Justice Department “published the kidnapping victim’s name, her Facebook profile (now no longer accessible), her phone number and address, a potential breach of a minor’s privacy.” The outlet also reported that similar warrants have been served on Yahoo and Microsoft.

Google tried to explain away any concerns.

“As with all law enforcement requests, we have a rigorous process that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” a Google spokesperson said.

Sure -- and the FBI hasn't entrapped people for years, either.

Sources include:

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