Google sharing data with U.S. forces raises concerns

Joanna Estrada
April 16, 2019

Google has a huge database called Sensorvault that contains location records of hundreds of millions of devices - both Android as well as iOS. These devices are initially given anonymous ID numbers and police will review the data to assess location and movement patterns that might be a possible fit for the crime.

A recent investigation by the New York Times has revealed that despite Apple's claims of their iPhone being a privacy-focused mobile device, Google can still gain access to the information on Apple devices and hand it over to law enforcement.

Google's penchant to collect user info is all too well known, something that has led to the company developing a detailed database of perhaps all information that can potentially be collected from a user. This year, one Google employee said, the company received as many as 180 requests in United States in a week's time.

Google said they divulge specific info such as the username, email address and phone number associated with the particular device only after the police are able to show enough evidence of the person being a close match of the suspect being targeted.

"We vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement", Richard Salgado, Google's director of law enforcement and information security, said in a statement.

For years, cops have started requesting "geofence" - a new type of warrant that provides the devices that were active at a crime scene.

While most of us aren't going to be caught up in a crime, it is nevertheless concerning that your location history can conceivably be accessed by law enforcement, on demand, should the police want to know your whereabouts. "We have created a new process for these specific requests designed to honour our legal obligations while narrowing the scope of data disclosed", Salgado added.

How does Google obtain location history data from you? Google has also been subjected to scrutiny after it was revealed that the search engine giant had been tracking people's location even after they turned off location-sharing on their phones.

According to information available on public domains, in 2017, Android accounted for more than 80 per cent of all smartphone sales to end users worldwide and by 2020, 85 per cent of all smartphones would run the Google-owned operating system.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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