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Judge Grants Search Warrant For Everyone Who Searched a Crime Victim's Name On Google (startribune.com) 101

Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson has issued a search warrant to Edina, Minnesota police to collect information on people who searched for variations of a crime victim's name on Google from Dec. 1 through Jan. 7. Google would be required to provide Edina police with basic contact information for people targeted by the warrant, as well as Social Security numbers, account and payment information, and IP and MAC addresses. StarTribune reports: Information on the warrant first emerged through a blog post by public records researcher Tony Webster. Edina police declined to comment Thursday on the warrant, saying it is part of an ongoing investigation. Detective David Lindman outlined the case in his application for the search warrant: In early January, two account holders with SPIRE Credit Union reported to police that $28,500 had been stolen from a line of credit associated with one of their accounts, according to court documents. Edina investigators learned that the suspect or suspects provided the credit union with the account holder's name, date of birth and Social Security number. In addition, the suspect faxed a forged U.S. passport with a photo of someone who looked like the account holder but wasn't. Investigators ran an image search of the account holder's name on Google and found the photo used on the forged passport. Other search engines did not turn up the photo. According to the warrant application, Lindman said he had reason to believe the suspect used Google to find a picture of the person they believed to be the account holder. Larson signed off on the search warrant on Feb. 1. According to court documents, Lindman served it about 20 minutes later.
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Judge Grants Search Warrant For Everyone Who Searched a Crime Victim's Name On Google

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  • by mccrew ( 62494 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @06:43PM (#54062543)
    At first, I was ready to get mad about an over-broad search. But after reading the facts and background info, the warrant doesn't seem unreasonable.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      So, ANYBODY who may have had access to that information regarding the victim (dr offices, creditors, accountant, family, etc...) could be served with a similar warrant because, Hey, they might have that info too... would NOT seem overly broad to you?

      • by dex22 ( 239643 ) <plasticuser@gmail . c om> on Friday March 17, 2017 @07:26PM (#54062783) Homepage

        The warrant is specifically for Google, specifically about people who searched within a specific timeframe for the specific details used in a specific crime that happened later. They have shown their work to show that Google was the only likely source for that info used in the crime. There are not likely to be any matching results that are not related to the crime, and those that are can be easily eliminated.

        Just how specific do you want them to be?

        • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @08:09PM (#54062965) Homepage

          The warrant is specifically for Google, specifically about people who searched within a specific timeframe for the specific details used in a specific crime that happened later. They have shown their work to show that Google was the only likely source for that info used in the crime. There are not likely to be any matching results that are not related to the crime, and those that are can be easily eliminated.

          Are you on crack? They are looking for someone that googled a person's name. There is absolutely zero, zip, nada, no requirement they searched for anything remotely related to any crime. Or that they searched for this particular individual and not just someone sharing their name. And while the police found the image on Google image search, the warrant is for everyone who used Google the search engine. It's likely the identity thief visited all pages about the victim, there's no reason to believe he used the image search directly that's just a red herring. And well over a month is hardly a specific time frame, if he lost his wallet in the morning and was cleaned out by evening I might agree but this just throwing a huge dragnet. But with bootlickers like you I understand why totalitarianism will win.

          • by Hylandr ( 813770 )

            So in other words they used information that any intelligent facebook user / developer has access to via clever social engineering or the app itself, OR intercepted windows 10 keylogging ( "telemetry" ) possibly over a wireless connection?

            If you play those 'guess your pirate name' games and their variants on Facebook or other social media that asks for seemingly innocuous information like the day of your birth or your mothers maiden name you're a sucker.

            • > So in other words they used information that any intelligent facebook user / developer has access to via clever social engineering or the app itself

              No, as the article points out, it's not the actual victim's details that are at issue here. It's the fact that the perpetrator used the *wrong* photo, and that the photo they used comes up in a Google search (but not in other search engines). If they had have got the photo through Facebook or social engineering, they likely would have got the right photo.

          • The problem with huge dragnets is that they catch lots of things you don't want. The Detectives and the DA are going to feel pretty stupid when they get back a 100 pages of IP addresses back from Google. You might try to narrow down the list using Geo-location services (with the assumption the fax originated from the same area) however even if the final list contains just a few dozen IP's there would be no chance of convincing a judge to order the ISP's reveal the subscriber info. Google or any security re
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Here's a very simple rule of thumb: If the warrant contains or can be rephrased to contain "anyone who" or "anything which", it is a general search warrant and thus violates the Constitution.

        • those that are can be easily eliminated

          How cute that you think the jack-booted thugs will voluntarily give up any opportunity to kick in some doors.

    • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      Perhaps not, but I'm not sure I get this bit:

      Google would be required to provide Edina police with basic contact information for people targeted by the warrant, as well as Social Security numbers, account and payment information, and IP and MAC addresses.

      Google might have *some* of that data - possibly even the MAC, if it's an Android device - but even with Google's reach, expecting them to be able to produce that data on a whole bunch of essentially random Google users just based on their searches seem

      • Google might have *some* of that data - possibly even the MAC, if it's an Android device - but even with Google's reach, expecting them to be able to produce that data on a whole bunch of essentially random Google users just based on their searches seems a bit of a stretch. Am I missing something here, or is it just those involved in writing and granting the warrant badly need to run a few Google searches of their own?

        Google is in the business of marketing, and they are among the best at it. If anyone has it (and they do) Google is among the people who do.

    • by torqer ( 538711 )

      At first I was excited that maybe Gary Larson was creating another comic strip... then I fully parsed the sentence and realized it was just about a county district judge...

      Oh well,

      Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.

    • It certainly does seem unreasonable. I have done searches on people's names before, and quite often I find results for people of that name who are not the same as the one I am looking for. For example, what if I had searched for the judge's name? Am I am criminal looking to defraud him, or am I looking for a cartoon to have a laugh at made by as different person (presumably). A name is simply not a unique identifier.

      I can easily imagine that Google will succeed in fighting this warrant.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Well, to me it seems really, really, stupid. Might sound like a good idea without thinking about the numbers but seriously a global warrant for anyone who searched for a specific name and to add even more stupid to that, variants of the name. I sure hope that name was globally unique, not many people have that though, I do and a fully appreciate how rare that is.

        So goggle concedes this one, because the reward for a stupid question has always been a stupid answer. Not a unique name and taking into accounts

    • At first, I was ready to get mad about an over-broad search. But after reading the facts and background info, the warrant doesn't seem unreasonable.

      It's not that the warrant is unjustified, it's that Google has that information.

  • WTF (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How does Google have our SS numbers if all we do is search? Is that legal?

    • In general, they wouldn't know SSNs. Maybe if someone was logged in while doing the search and earlier associated a SSN with their Google account for some reason. Google probably doesn't have people's MAC addresses either. It seems the police is asking for anything that would help them identify a person no matter how unlikely that Google can actually provide it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lgw ( 121541 )

      How does Google have our SS numbers if all we do is search? Is that legal?

      Google knows an astonishing amount about you. I chatted with one of their professional racists: the team that determines your race from all the information they have on you from searches, mail, web bugs, and so on. Gotta target them ads.

      Want a registry of all Muslims in the US, or perhaps all the Jews? Google has it.

      If you dislike this, you can much of these . DuckDuckGo for the win. Outlook.com doesn't suck. Ghostery or other tracking blockers. There's no total escape if you use the internet, but yo

      • Outlook.com doesn't suck.

        In what sense does it not suck? I get a huge amount of spam from there. They appear to be allowing anonymous relay. It can't possibly be any more secure than Yahoo.com.

        • by lgw ( 121541 )

          I don't see how that matters to the usability of its web client. Heck, it's the back-end technical mediocrity of Microsoft that makes me unworried about their own ability to gather demographic information on me and use it for evil.

          • I'm more worried more about their apparent inability to secure the system against spying and other types of abuse by 3rd parties.

      • Hopefully a handful of the names that Google turns over are "DuckDuckGo".

    • Legally Google should only have SSN's for their own employees, though with the level of spying and data analysis they conduct for their advertising it's possible they can connect the dots and statistically identify an individual including their ID numbers.
      • Legally Google should only have SSN's for their own employees, though with the level of spying and data analysis they conduct for their advertising it's possible they can connect the dots and statistically identify an individual including their ID numbers.

        The thing is, an SSN is not considered confidential information. It's merely an identifier. The fact that banks and credit companies and lenders have USED it for identification and credit ratings and such is entirely of their own volition. They're not supposed to do that. It's not meant for that purpose. But the barn door was left open long ago.

        In fact, there are algorithms that can deduce your SSN with good rate of success just by knowing your DOB and place of birth. So if it's possible to figure

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by WolfgangVL ( 3494585 )

      How does Google have our SS numbers if all we do is search? Is that legal?

      --

      Google might have *some* of that data - possibly even the MAC, if it's an Android device - but even with Google's reach, expecting them to be able to produce that data on a whole bunch of essentially random Google users just based on their searches seems a bit of a stretch. Am I missing something here, or is it just those involved in writing and granting the warrant badly need to run a few Google searches of their own?

      --

      In general, they wouldn't know SSNs. Maybe if someone was logged in while doing the search and earlier associated a SSN with their Google account for some reason. Google probably doesn't have people's MAC addresses either. It seems the police is asking for anything that would help them identify a person no matter how unlikely that Google can actually provide it.

      --
      Google has become the most powerful information broker on the planet. Gmail has over a billion users a month. Google scans the contents of each and every email sent and received. -- Are you sure nobody has ever discussed your SSN on that platform?

      People lives their lives plugging info into google controlled mobile platforms, which google also scans, including a pretty good voice to text algorithm. --- Are you sure nobody has ever spoken, or otherwise worked with your SSN on that platform?

      Google provid

  • by by (1706743) ( 1706744 ) on Friday March 17, 2017 @06:44PM (#54062549)
    I only use Bing!
    • Joking aside, it looks like this is the reason Google was singled out:

      Investigators ran an image search of the account holder's name on Google and found the photo used on the forged passport. Other search engines did not turn up the photo.

      According to the warrant application, Lindman said he had reason to believe the suspect used Google to find a picture of the person they believed to be the account holder.

  • Proud of myself (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Friday March 17, 2017 @06:45PM (#54062565)
    30+ years of being online and not one picture of me anywhere, either under my pseudonym Dunbal (which I've used since 1986), or my real name.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I bet your one ugly mother fucker.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        His ugly mother fucker what? You should finish your sentences.

      • by antdude ( 79039 )

        Or a really attractive gal. Hmm!

    • I share my name with :

      A current well know actor
      AND
      A famous writer

      Good luck finding me in the mass of information you'll be swamped with.

    • For example, I don't and have never had a Facebook account but it's a well known fact they have dark profiles and my wife uploads pictures with me in them to Facebook without my consent as do other family members.

      You don't sound like you're living in the woods, off the grid, in a cabin with your gruel and wood burning stove so chances are SOMEONE has a picture of you online SOMEWHERE without your knowledge.

      • For example, I don't and have never had a Facebook account but it's a well known fact they have dark profiles and my wife uploads pictures with me in them to Facebook without my consent as do other family members.

        You don't sound like you're living in the woods, off the grid, in a cabin with your gruel and wood burning stove so chances are SOMEONE has a picture of you online SOMEWHERE without your knowledge.

        And outside of people with a legal reason to go to great lengths to avoid any web presence, or some over the top privacy zealots, who would even care?

        Just bragging about it on Slashdot makes a person very interesting.

    • 30+ years of being online and not one picture of me anywhere, either under my pseudonym Dunbal (which I've used since 1986), or my real name.

      Looks like you won the internet.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We should all do a Google search for "Hillary Clinton Sex Tape", so when it gets leaked Biden will have plausible deniability.

  • They better catch the vile murderers of upstanding citizen Bigus Dickus.
  • Get a fast router with good VPN support to pass all ethernet networking.
  • I love this use of the word required.

    eg. "You are required to comply."

    How could one confirm or deny this claim - it's really flawless and goes hand-in-hand with 'authority' which materialises from nowhere in particular.

    • by Altrag ( 195300 )

      Uhh is right.. wtf are you talking about?

      Judges and the police are granted their authority by the state (and thus by the people, at least in principle.) That's hardly "materialis[ing] from nowhere in particular."

  • Once again a member of the judicial oligarchy has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to protect the rights of the people, and that their power must be severely curtailed.

  • Good luck with that.

    Google doesn't keep that kind of data.

    They aren't going to be able to comply with the warrant, no matter how intrusive this particular judge mistakenly believes they are.

    They should ask the NSA instead. The NSA *does* keep this kind of data.

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