Google Closes the Door on Geofence Warrants
Google announced that it would change the way it stored users’ location history generated by Google Maps, placing the information on the device rather than central servers and shortening the retention period, making it so that the company could no longer respond to “geofence warrants” from law enforcement. Geofence warrants are a form of digital surveillance where law enforcement compels technology companies—like Google—to produce information about devices that were active in a particular geographic region. These dragnet surveillance warrants raise serious Fourth Amendment concerns and risk sweeping up sensitive information from innocent people. Facing a torrent of law enforcement demands, litigation challenges, and criticism from civil rights organizations, Google changed its default policies in a decision that led to cheers from privacy advocates and defense attorneys.