TheNFAPost Podcast

San Francisco, NFAPost: The US government is issuing ‘keyword warrants’ to track the identity of anyone who searches Google and other search engines for certain search terms that may be related to a crime.

According to news report, the government came up with the decision to proactively engage with digital companies to control the growing menace of crime in the country.

But at the same time the controversial practice is already drawing the concerns of civil liberties about sweeping government overreach. Keyword warrants are relatively new and have sparked controversy with many arguing that they violate an individual’s constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

The decision of the US government was revealed on Tuesday in ‘accidentally unsealed’ court documents obtained by Forbes. It has sent shockwaves to those who are vociferously fighting for digital freedom and privacy.

Expressing her thought on the government decision, American Civil Liberties Union Surveillance and Cybersecurity Counsel Jennifer Granick said trawling through Google’s search history database enables police to identify people merely based on what they might have been thinking about, for whatever reason, at some point in the past.

“This never-before-possible technique threatens First Amendment interests and will inevitably sweep up innocent people, especially if the keyword terms are not unique and the time frame not precise. To make matters worse, police are currently doing this in secret, which insulates the practice from public debate and regulation,” said Jennifer Granick.

In a related development, Google has defended its decision to respond to keyword warrants and claims they protect users when doing so.

“As with all law enforcement requests, we have a rigorous process that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” a Google spokesperson explained.

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