If recent reports are anything to go by, it is said that there was a court document that got accidentally unsealed and revealed more than it was supposed to. The documents are suggestive that the United States government may have been stealthily ordering Google to supply them with information on any individuals typing in certain search terms. This has, without doubt, struck fear in internet users as they worry that this discovery might implicate them in serious crimes.
Keyword warrant accidentally revealed
In 2019, federal investigators in the state of Wisconsin were hunting down the individuals responsible for the suspected abduction and sexual abuse of a minor. The investigators then turned to Google as they requested the big tech firm to provide details on individuals who had searched for the spellings of the name of the victim’s mother, her address, and her name in 16 days during that year, Forbes noted.
Further, after being asked to give all the Google accounts and IP addresses that did such searches, Google replied with what is asked of them in mid-2020. However, the court documents in question did not disclose how many users had their data sent to the government.
This is an example of a so-called “keyword warrant,” and albeit being rare, the above-mentioned is said to be the broadest in terms of the search terms that were included.
Now, this procedure is regarded as highly controversial because instead of gathering information about a person of interest, authorities demand details about every individual who has searched the web for specific keywords in a given period of time.
It was even used with R&B singer R. Kelly, and this has been deemed to be one of the most high-profile cases using a keyword warrant. Other cases that were used with such warrants include the Austin bombings in 2018 and a 2017 fraud case.
Keyword warrant sure is a powerful tool in tracing people, especially those who are running from the law. However, this can obviously be abused by people in power, hence threatening American citizens’ constitutional rights.