Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
Electronics | By Jesus Weaver

Search warrant on Edina Google searches could have big implications

Search warrant on Edina Google searches could have big implications

Police searching for a suspect in a Minnesota wire fraud case have obtained a warrant for the records of anyone who searched Google for the victim's name, a broad-reaching request that Google said it plans to fight.

In addition to basic contact information for people targeted by the warrant, Google would have to provide Edina police with their Social Security numbers, account and payment information, and IP (internet protocol) and computer addresses. It's a rare instance of USA law enforcement using mass data collection to solve a petty crime, said Nate Cardozo, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Additionally, the schemer faxed a copy of a forged US passport with a photo that looked like the victim.

However, the image used for the USA passport is publicly available on the internet through a Google search, but not on Yahoo or Bing, according to the warrant application.

The case centers on a local man whose photo, which is obtainable through a Google search, was used on a fake passport to fraudulently transfer $28,500 out of his bank account.

So the police want Google to give them a list of any information the company has on people who searched for the victim's name between December 1 and January 7. Edina police declined to comment Thursday on the warrant, saying it is part of an ongoing investigation.

According to the warrant application, Lindman said he had reason to believe the suspect used Google to find a picture of the person they believed to be the account holder.

The warrant notes that Google had rejected an administrative subpoena that sought subscriber information on anyone who had searched the victim's name. A Minnesota judge has signed off on a warrant seeking specific Google search data from pretty much everyone in the city of Edina.

USA authorities regularly do subpoena internet companies such as Google for information relating to criminal investigations.

He's particularly concerned that the warrant amounts to a "fishing expedition" that exposes the whole town to an unlawful search. "The DEA could get a search warrant on whoever emailed a marijuana dispensary". Legal experts say the warrant is likely unconstitutional, because it potentially would target innocent people who happen to perform the search in that timeframe.

It's unclear if the internet company ever gave up the data.

Google has not spoken publicly about the case, but they did tell Ars in an email that they "will always push back when we receive excessively broad requests for data about our users". The warrant was granted by Hennepin County Judge Gary Larson.

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