Contact Us for a Free Consultation 614-542-1200

Blog

Keyword Warrants and Geofence Warrants - Giving the Government Your Search Results

Posted by Jeffery Blosser | Oct 05, 2021 | 0 Comments

There has been an alarming growth in law enforcement's search of Google user data.  Keyword warrants seek to identify every user who searched for a specific keyword, phrase or address.  Geofence warrants compel disclosure of all devices in a geofenced area – such as a crime scene.

Such blanket warrants circumvent constitutional checks on police surveillance.  Frequently, courts have ordered Google and other search firms to provide an accused's search history and location data.  In those cases a specific person is suspected of a crime, but with a keyword search warrants reverse this and raise threats to individuals' privacy.  Keyword searches will return hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of individuals who searched for information which is subject to the keyword warrant.  As a result, many users will be caught up in the search even though the vast majority of those users will likely be completely innocent.

Keyword searches fail the particularity requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Law enforcement's inability to particularly describe probable cause for treating each Google user who searched for identified keywords forms the basis for such unconstitutionality. 

Geofence warrants are even more chilling.  There is zero particularity with regard to those warrants.  Results are sought for every user within a particular distance from a named location. 

Using private browsers can help to protect innocent users from such overbroad searches by law enforcement of private citizens.  These, however, won't prevent valid investigations where a user has been identified as a suspect in a crime.

About the Author

Jeffery Blosser

I grew up in a rural community that instilled a sense of honor, fairness and community.  Often when someone is accused of a criminal offense there is a feeling of unfairness as the State brings its enormous resources to bear against a lone individual.  It can feel lonely, but you don't have to be...

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Comments have been disabled.

Menu