Good morning Edina, Minnesota! You fine folks are the lucky winners of a warrant seeking your Google search data. A Minnesota judge has signed off on a warrant seeking specific Google search data from pretty much everyone in the city of Edina. Don’t worry though, there are very specific search terms that the police would like to investigate. The series of events that birthed such a warrant started when the Spire Credit Union was contacted by a man seeking to wire transfer $28,500USD from a line of credit to another bank. Of course, the bank needed to verify the man’s identity so he faxed in a copy of his passport which turns out, was fake.
The Edina Police Department figured out that while searching Google Images for the victim’s name, they found the photo used on the fake passport, and investigators couldn’t find it on Yahoo or Bing. So, they theorized the suspect must have searched Google for the victim’s name while making the fake passport.
This has led the Edina Police to draft the warrant which the judge has signed and approved. The warrant is seeking the names, email addresses, account information, and IP addresses of anyone who searched for the victim’s name in any variety of ways. 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.
Could this type of search warrant be used to wrongly ensnare innocent people? If Google were to provide personal information on anyone who Googled the victim’s name, would Edina Police raid their homes, or would they first do further investigative work? The question is: what comes next? If you bought a pressure cooker on Amazon a month before the Boston bombing, do police get to know about it? Under a probable cause standard, no way.
According to Forbes, Google has already rejected the subpoena from Hennepin County but they are still attempting to get the warrant served. Forbes has reached out to Google for comment but it’s likely Google will not comment on an open warrant request such as this. We’ll try and keep an eye on what happens out in Edina, Minnesota with this situation.