Google faces surge in police requests for mobile location data

Law enforcement taps Google's Sensorvault for location data, report says

Law enforcement taps Google's Sensorvault for location data, report says

It contains location data of users and shares it with law enforcement-if they have a warrant, of course. The Times investigation revealed that Google regularly uses its in-house database known as Sensorvault to help law enforcement.

As for the Location History feature, it's something that user specifically have to opt to before Google can collect details of all the places the person has been to with his or her phone.

A new frontier in crime investigation relies on the ultimate tracking device-and it's right in your purse or pocket, the New York Times reports. This year, one Google employee said, the company received as many as 180 requests in USA in a week's time.

Google declined to answer specific questions about Sensorvault but said the company has narrowed how much identifiable information it gives police.

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"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. Google anonymizes the data at first, but it will provide names and other sensitive info if police believe it matches the behavior of a suspect or witness. If you plan to commit a crime while carrying a smartphone, an iPhone might be the better choice - but only if you don't enable Google location services on it. The police regularly submit "geofence" warrants which allows them to access data showing which phones were in proximity to a specific crime; one employee claims that Google has received as many as 180 geofence requests in a single week.

"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.

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. Google provides information about the devices to the police along with anonymous ID numbers related to the devices.

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