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Police use the Google Maps timeline to gather location information for cases



If you're one in millions of people with a Google Account, you have a Google Maps timeline. It may be empty ̵

1; it's related to the Location Log setting, which caused more confusion than necessary because of the name, and it regularly checks every mobile device that's bound to your account once you've agreed and chosen to do so is helpful for things like calculating the mileage, for others it's a good thing to see where you've been. However, for law enforcement agencies, looking for a breaking New York Times piece has made it possible to create a very broad network to see who might have been during a crime.

It's not a foolproof way To catch the bad guys and get a lot of details about how the officers can use the information is a bit cryptic. But a recent case in Phoenix sheds some light on how the service is used or abused, according to your opinion.

Like any US company, Google also needs to provide information that is accompanied by a US company's legal summons. The company has a pretty good history of fighting these subpoenas, but in the end, much data is passed on demand. The Google database, previously known as Sensorvault, helps the company show you location-based interests and ads. A new type of arrest warrant, which the NYT aptly calls Geofence Warrants intervenes in the Sensovault database in a way that would make the Framers of the Fourth Amendment cringe of a crime and let them Google tell them who was in the area. Google has a novel way to anonymize the data. The company provides a set of tokens that represent an account that the police can track and then ask for more precise and identifiable information for information that fits within the investigation area and is based on other evidence, such as video or eye witnesses. The case created by The Times shows how this can backfire – a man who had loaned his car to a criminal and had the misfortune to be near his on-the-spot visit, was arrested and spent one week in prison as a suspect in a murder case.

The investigators also had other clues, including a security video of someone firing a gun from a white Honda Civic plate or assailant.

But after spending nearly a week in jail, the case erupted against Mr. Molina when the investigators learned new information and released him. Last month, the police arrested another man: his mother's ex-boyfriend, who sometimes used Mr Molina's car.

We are not against prosecution if we try by all means to capture a criminal. We are also not against someone who wants to use a service that, for all sorts of reasons, keeps a schedule for all the places it is located. We think it's important that everyone knows how the data we collect about us is used.

More: How to disable (and delete existing data) Google's location log and timeline features


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