You’ve just watched an action movie and decided to check how that bomb used by the main villain works in real life. You look it up on Google — and the next day, there’s a police officer banging on your door. It seems you accidentally looked up a crime-related keyword, and that could be the basis for a keyword warrant.
A keyword warrant is a request made by a law enforcement agency to an online search service provider to identify users who searched for specific phrases or names on its search engine. These keywords are usually associated with crimes or investigation procedures (e.g., victims’ names, crime location addresses, crime methods, etc.). However, they can also be less specific.
The term is mainly associated with Google after the tech giant provided such data to law enforcement officers on several occasions. It stands pretty close to geofence warrants — cases where the police ask Google for information on persons who were close to a crime scene at a certain time.
Here are a few known cases of keyword warrant requests:
While those methods can indeed help to catch criminals or stop criminal activity, they also introduce certain risks:
Keyword warrant requests are part of an ongoing trend of new police surveillance methods. Here are a few other cases:
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