Google announces it will revoke access to location history, effectively blocking geofence warrants
Geofence warrants, while beneficial in solving cold cases, faced controversy due to privacy concerns, as the warrants collected data from anyone near a crime scene
By Joanna Putman
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google has announced it will change company access to users’ location history, meaning it will no longer respond to police “geofence warrants,” Forbes reported.
The warrants, also known as reverse-location services, allowed police departments to gather information on every user near the crime scene at the time a crime occurred, according to the report.
Privacy advocates have expressed satisfaction with the decision because of geofence warrants’ ability to implicate anyone who happens to be in the vicinity of a crime, according to the report.
“From a practical perspective, judges are often concerned about taking a tool away from law enforcement,” said Michael Price, the litigation director for the Fourth Amendment Center at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “But here that decision has just been made and may lower the stakes in some respects for finding it unconstitutional.”
Almost all geofence warrants have been targeted at Google, according to the report. While the warrants could theoretically be used to obtain information from other tech companies, Google was one of the companies to maintain its access to location history data.
Orin Kerr, a law professor at the University of California, wrote on X that while the move makes sense for Google from a business perspective, it could be “a bummer” from a public policy standpoint, according to the report.
“Geofencing has solved a bunch of really major cases that were otherwise totally cold,” he wrote.