EDINA, Minn. - Think of all the things you Google, and now think about police knowing exactly what they are.
That's what could happen in Edina, thanks to a search warrant approved last month by a Hennepin County District judge.
It happened as police tried to solve a $28,000 theft from a local credit union, saying they think the thief fooled the bank using a fake passport with a photo that pops up when you Google the victim's name. And now detectives want Google to tell them who searched for that name.
“Our digital footprint is tremendously detailed,” said Teresa Nelson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota. “I'm surprised that he granted it.”
As Google has so far refused to honor the warrant, the case is raising questions about constitutional rights, with privacy experts worrying it sets a dangerous precedent.
“Anything that we're doing on the Internet could be the subject of a law enforcement search in the future,” Nelson said.
That's just one of Nelson’s concerns. She says the warrant is overly broad, doesn't show strong probable cause, and could implicate people who searched the name -- or even one like it -- for innocent reasons. Nelson says this is just one example showing that our state and federal laws have not yet caught up to the new risks of the Internet.
“We really need to take a hard look at what protections our laws actually have, and what we need to do to fix that and protect people's privacy,” said Nelson.
In the meantime, it's people in Edina whose privacy is at stake, and some experts say it may not be the last time this goes to court. If residents feel their privacy is violated, they could themselves take legal action by suing the city and its police.
Google today released this statement about the case:
We will continue to object to this overreaching request for user data, and if needed, will fight it in court. We always push back when we receive excessively broad requests for data about our users.