At a time when concerns over data collection and breach by tech majors are on the rise, it has been reported that US law enforcement officials have been turning to a particular Google database called “Sensorvault” to trace location and other data of people as part of their investigations.
The database, that is otherwise maintained to collect user-information from Google products for ad targeting, contains detailed location records from hundreds of millions of phones from around the world, CNET reported on Saturday. On coming under question of exposing personal user data to law enforcement officials, the search engine giant ensured that the information obtained through the database is anonymous and that it reveals specific information only after the police has analysed and narrowed down the devices which would be relevant to the investigation.
“We vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” the report quoted Richard Salgado, Director of law enforcement and information security at Google as saying. Before the officials could use Google’s data-base for investigation purposes, they require a “geofence” warrant — that specifies an area and a time period that helps Google gather information about the devices that were available in the specified window. “We have created a new process for these specific requests designed to honour our legal obligations while narrowing the scope of data disclosed and only producing information that identifies specific users where legally required,” Salgado added.
Even though law enforcements seeking help from tech giants is not uncommon, the use of “Sensorvault” data has raised concerns about innocent people who could be wrongly or mistakenly implicated.”The New York Times interviewed a man who was arrested last year in a murder investigation after Google’s data had reportedly landed him on the police’s radar
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