Government secretly conducting keyword sweeps, it should terrify you

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The U.S. government has discreetly ordered Google to provide data on anyone typing in certain search terms, Forbes reports. (Video below)

The news was uncovered when a 2019 court document in Wisconsin accidentally became unsealed.   According to the document, the government potentially could implicate innocent web users in serious crimes based on searched keywords, Forbes said Monday.

Google delivered data through mid-2020. It was based on a keyword warrant, the broadest on record.

This is the third such keyword warrant made public. R. Kelly’s case was one, and another involved a fraud victim in 2017.

Although thousands of such orders annually are made to Google, the government usually already has a specific account on which it wants information. That’s no longer the case.

Forbes said search-term orders basically are fishing expeditions, hoping to ensnare possible suspects whose identities the government does not know. The report compared the orders to so-called geofence warrants, where investigators ask Google to provide information on anyone within the location of a crime scene at a given time.

“As with all law enforcement requests, we have a rigorous process that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” a Google spokesperson told Forbes.

The latest case shows Google continues to comply with search-term requests, even though there are concerns over their legality, and the potential to implicate innocent people who happened to search for the relevant keywords.

This is precedent-setting and possibly breaches the 1st and 4th Amendments.

“This never-before-possible technique threatens First Amendment interests and will inevitably sweep up innocent people, especially if the keyword terms are not unique and the time frame not precise,” Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, told Forbes.

“To make matters worse, police are currently doing this in secret, which insulates the practice from public debate and regulation.”

Since the government thinks moms at Board of Education meetings and Americans rallying for Donald Trump are actions of domestic terrorists, people should be concerned.

WHAT A SWEEP CAN DO

Sweeps are dangerous.

To give you an idea of what a “sweep” can do in one isolated case, consider one young man I know. He works hard in retail and hoped to come up with an idea for a business. A relative told him to sell plastic containers on the Internet. The relative was doing it and making good money at it.

The young man went ahead and started an Internet company selling different-sized plastic bottles.

One day, SWAT was at his door and, without a word of explanation, cuffed him and took him off to prison. He even had to do a perp walk with a host of drug dealers and innocent people caught up in a “sweep.” He had to be bailed out.

It seems that one of the plastic bottles he sold was on a table in a meth lab. His name, address, and contact information were affixed to the bottle label. Even the government should have been able to figure out that drug dealers don’t usually put their labels on items.

Instead of interviewing him and looking at who he was – a man never arrested for anything – they decided to take the lazy way out. You see, “sweeps” allow law enforcement to arrest anyone with even a remote connection or perceived connection to the crime.

It goes beyond just an arrest, however. The DA wouldn’t even speak with him. He was never actually charged but it hung over his head. He was banned from conducting business and he was publicly humiliated. He now had an arrest record.

He hired lawyers who bankrupted him. The DA wouldn’t speak to his lawyers either.

A year later, the ADA (Assistant District Attorney) said that of course they weren’t going to charge him but they would not erase his arrest record.

That’s what a “sweep” can do in a case that is of small magnitude.

When the government talks about “sweeps,” it is important to know that they can be dangerous.

That’s what a sweep, even a keyword sweep, could do to you.

Watch:


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