How the secret Google Geofence authorization helped catch the thugs in the Capitol

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For multiple suspects, the FBI eventually collected a large amount of Google data, including recovery numbers and emails, as well as the date of creation and last access to the account. Some court documents even pointed out that FBI agents could see a field called “User Deleted Location”, although it did not explain its meaning. It is not clear whether the data came from the initial geofencing order, follow-up operations, or a traditional search order after the suspect was identified.

Legal experts say that if the Department of Justice uses geofencing authorization data to build a searchable database of suspects, then this will be the first known case.

“It sounds unusual, but it’s worth noting that the whole situation is unusual,” said Tim O’Brien, a tech industry executive who currently works on artificial intelligence policy at Microsoft. Research on geofencing warrants At the University of Washington School of Law. “If I were a law enforcement officer, I would argue that in this case, the three-step procedure is unnecessary, because the moment you step into the Capitol, you become a suspect or a witness.”

Others saw the beginning of the landslide. A digital forensics lawyer who asked not to be named said: “When law enforcement and prosecutors see what they can do in an unusual case, it usually overflows and becomes the usual case.” “I think you are. Not only will you see this in murders, but you may start to see it in car thefts. There is no rein in this regard.”

Google provided a statement: “We have a strict geofencing authorization process designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement. As far as we disclose any data in response to geofencing authorization, we are always The first step of this process is to generate de-identified data. Then, based on the warrant or new court order, the generation of any additional information is a separate step.”

Google also pointed out that court orders are usually accompanied by a gag order that prohibits the recipient from discussing them.

The US Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.

Geofencing orders are usually filed before the intervention of defense lawyers, are usually not subject to public scrutiny for many years, and there are no substantive lawsuits for their constitutionality or use. The law governing them, the Storage Communication Act, was passed in 1986, long before smartphones, Wi-Fi, or the widely used GPS, and there has been no major update since.

Instead, the Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Division (CCIPS) of the Department of Justice and Google quietly proposed their own framework for handling geofencing orders, which has been accepted by most courts so far.

Toksen said that Google at least allowed DOJ to obtain a search warrant for its data, which is a great first step. “But if we rely on large technology companies to protect people’s privacy from the government, that is a very unstable proposal,” he said. “These companies rely heavily on the government for their business and will not supervise them.”

More than 600 people have been arrested so far, at least 185 charged, In connection with Capitol violations, the most recent criminal lawsuit used Google geofencing data submitted last week.

At the same time, the arrest warrant for violation of the geofence of the secret Capitol has not yet been determined. In April, New York Times Thought it had found one Make a motion Unblock. The arrest warrant turned out to be an unrelated drug trafficking case. When it comes to geofencing data, the information seems to flow strictly in one direction.


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