Politics

Google Gives The Police Mobile Phone Data On All Users Near Fires Set After Jacob Blake Murder Protest


On Aug. 23, 2020, 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot at least seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he opened the driver’s door of the SUV where three of his children waited.

The shooting left Blake paralyzed from the waist down and was captured on a cell phone video that went viral.

Protests broke out and some turned violent. Two protesters were fatally shot and a third was injured on Aug. 25 by a 17-year-old whose attorney’s claim he was acting in self-defense.

At least 40 buildings were burned to the ground including the Wisconsin Department of Corrections and more than 100 buildings were damaged.

Now comes a revelation that Google handed over data on any phones that were located in the area of two arson attacks during the Jacob Blake protests, even though some protesters were trying to stop the fires, Forbes reported. 

This so-called digital dragnet was revealed in recently-unsealed court orders. Google was ordered to hand over data from users of any of its location services who were near a Kenosha library and museum that were set on fire during the August 2020 protests. 

The geofence or reverse location warrants directed Google to gather information on any device for a two-hour period at the public library and 25 minutes at the Kenosha Dinosaur Discovery Museum.

Privacy activists are concerned because police have targeted the wrong person before using data from a Google geofence. One search warrant swept up data from more than 1,000 phones, according to Forbes

SCOOP – Google gave the US gov data on all phones using its location tech at two Kenosha riot arson sites. Protesters at one of those sites were actively trying to stop the fires. One stopped the fire spreading” Forbes privacy reporter Thomas Brewster tweeted on Aug. 26, 2021.

Taffy Arguist McTugger, IV @SurtChilling responded, “I distinctly remember that video of one white guy decked out in black and face covered breaking windows and protestors telling him to stop. He ran away and hid as soon as he saw cameras. So suspect.”

“An empty lot now occupies the space where a Wisconsin Department of Corrections building was burned to the ground last August #Kenosha#Wisconsin” tweeted Brendan Gutenschwager @BGOnTheScene, who posted a video of an empty lot.

Google insisted it is legally obligated to help law enforcement and has a special process to protect users.

“We vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement. We developed a process specifically for these requests that is designed to honor our legal obligations while narrowing the scope of data disclosed,” a Google spokesperson told Forbes.

Some Twitter users advised protesters to leave their phones at home. “If you’re going to attend a protest, a riot, or commit a crime, don’t carry your phone with you. There are MULTIPLE ways to track down your location, but a phone makes it a thousand times easier. Leave. It. At. Home” auspiciousbell/jollygrave @auspiciousbell tweeted.

Others had a different take. “After decades of police abuse it does not surprise me that all this happened. The bad cop’s worst enemies are body cams and smart phones” Actual Patriot @flyfishcedarci1 tweeted.

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