Minnesota police seek data on who Googled a victim's name

Minnesota police seek data on who Googled a victim's name

Local police in Minnesota are trying to solve a bank fraud scheme by demanding Google give up data on people who looked up key search terms that may b

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Local police in Minnesota are trying to solve a bank fraud scheme by demanding Google give up data on people who looked up key search terms that may be related to crime.

The warrant, issued to police in the city of Edina last month, is raising eyebrows among privacy advocates. It’s a rare instance of U.S. law enforcement using mass data collection to solve a petty crime, said Nate Cardozo, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Edina police applied for the warrant to investigate a fraud case dealing with $28,500 that was wired out of a victim’s bank account back in January.

The criminal pulled off the scheme by posing as the victim and faxing over a forged U.S. passport to the bank.

However, the image used for the U.S. passport is publicly available on the internet through a Google search, but not on Yahoo or Bing, according to the warrant application.

As a result, Edina police suspect the criminal must have queried Google using a certain combination of search terms revolving around the victim’s name.

The warrant, which a judge signed, asks that Google hand over user information for people who queried the search terms. This includes the user’s name, address, telephone number, birth date, payment information, and IP addresses.

But the warrant also has limits. For instance, it applies to only users located in Edina, which has a population of about 50,000 and looks only at queries made between last December and Jan. 7.

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