Pulling from a report by WRAL, TechCrunch says that Google may have helped Raleigh, N.C. detectives pursue two gunmen who committed separate crimes, and that the digital giant is keeping quiet about it.
Citing the WRAL report, Tech Crunch says that instead of seeking information about the actual suspects, Raleigh police presented Google with warrants for the data from all mobile devices that were within a certain distance of each crime scene. This included anonymized data from homes, businesses and apartment complexes near the scenes; it is unclear at this time if any suspects have been taken into custody.
Tech Crunch reports that today’s mobile devices, from tablets to laptops, have built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile networks that can determine each device’s position. Users might opt to switch off tracking, but, “if they’re using a cellular network or relying on Wi-Fi to connect, their devices are still transmitting their coordinates to third parties.”
Google doesn’t disclose what data it shares with governmental and other authorities; Tech Crunch reports that when Google does hand over data, “it may be under court order not to identify the individuals impacted.” Google has also been receiving disclosure requests for “between 75,000 and 80,000 users every six months,” and has produced data roughly 65 percent of the time it was asked to do so as of January 2017.
What this means for decision makers:
While decision makers aren’t usually at the heart of solving a crime, they should be aware of this trend: institutions, authoritative figures and others tapping Google to obtain data. Tech Crunch warns that these trends might cross the line of “potentially violating the privacy of Google users and subjecting them to unreasonable searches,” which can lead to false accusations, or “guilty by association” scenarios. This is applicable to businesses, too: if employees’ and decision makers’ devices are near an area that is being searched, and their data is swept into an investigation, false accusations might fly, the chances of a data breach increase, and company reputation is at risk.