Unsealed court documents disclosed the Google actions. The CNET report, published on Saturday, claims law officers requested the company to disclose the IP addresses of everyone who had looked up words relevant to their investigations.
The request for the IP addresses falls in a grey area of the law. Police usually would have to narrow their focus to an individual before serving a warrant for information on searches. But keyword warrants are outside the scope of current law language.
The troubling practice came to light when police in Florida investigated an incident where a woman who had accused singer R. Kelly of sexual assault had her car vandalized outside her home.
CNET reported that police “sent a search warrant to Google that requested information on users who had searched the address of the residence close in time to the arson.”
In the Florida case, that led to the arrest of Michael Williams, a relative of one of R. Kelly’s former publicists.
Williams’s attorney, Todd Spodek, is challenging the keyword warrants.
“Think of the ramifications in the future if everyone who searched something in the privacy of their own home was subject to interviews by federal agents,” he said to CNET. “Someone could be interested in how people die a certain way or how drug deals are done, and it could be misconstrued or used improperly.”
Google has not yet commented on the report.
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