By now, we’re used to the feds getting clearance to do sweeping searches to find out what people are doing on their phones and computers. But now the police are getting in on the action.
The Edina Police Department outside Minneapolis is trying to get to the bottom of a $30,000 wire fraud scheme, and in order to do that they are hoping Google will identify anyone who has Googled the name of the victim. His first name is “Douglas”— his last name was redacted in documents made public by reporter Tony Webster in order to protect him. Police say someone created a fake passport using the victim’s name and photograph in order to scam around $30,000 from a local credit union.
Google originally received an administrative subpoena, but they refused to give up the data because a judge had not signed off on it (a judge’s signature is not required for an administrative subpoena). That’s when Judge Gary Larson stepped in and issued a warrant demanding Google give the Edina Police Department “any/all user or subscriber information” of anybody who searched for the victim’s name. This includes, but is not limited to, e-mail addresses, payment information, MAC addresses, Social Security numbers, and IP addresses, according to an Ars Technica report.
The warrant states that Google must divulge all user information from searches between December 1, 2016, and January 7, 2017. According to the warrant application, Google is the only search engine where the photo of the victim shows up.
Google has not spoken publicly about the case, but they did tell Ars in an email that they “will always push back when we receive excessively broad requests for data about our users.”