Google Resists Warrant for Data in Minnesota Fraud Case

Posted March 18, 2017

In an unprecedented request, local police in Minnesota have acquired a warrant that compels Google to surrender information on every person who used its service to search for a particular name. Edina police declined to comment Thursday on the warrant, saying it is part of an ongoing investigation. 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 victim's first name is Douglas with the last name redacted in the scanned warrant available on Tony Webster's blog and Webster poses an interesting question in his post. The image turned up on a fake passport used to trick a credit union to fraudulently transfer $28,500 out of an Edina man's account, police said.

Additionally, the schemer faxed a copy of a forged USA passport with a photo that looked like the victim. You fine folks are the lucky winners of a warrant seeking your Google search data.

So the police want Google to give them a list of any information the company has on people who searched for the victim's name between December 1 and January 7.

This has led the Edina Police to draft the warrant which the judge has signed and approved. According to court documents, Lindman served it about 20 minutes later.

A Google spokesperson told The Star Tribune on Friday that the company will go to court, if necessary, to fight the warrant, which was issued by Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson in early February.

Under a probable cause standard, no way.

Rob Kahn, a privacy law professor at the University of St. Thomas, was even more critical, saying the warrant could be used to collect information on internet users who searched the name for other reasons.

He's particularly concerned that the warrant amounts to a "fishing expedition" that exposes the whole town to an unlawful search.

He added that he hoped police would find a way to guard or exclude data obtained through the warrant that was unrelated to the investigation. Legal experts say the warrant is likely unconstitutional, because it potentially would target innocent people who happen to perform the search in that timeframe. It's certainly a scary slippery slope that they're setting up here."Teresa Nelson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, stated, "There's really very little to connect the fact that there's a photo attainable on Google with the identity theft".

"If this warrant is constitutional, then the California highway patrol could ask Google for information on people who were speeding while using Google Maps", Cardozo said.