Google Data Privacy: Smart Devices Tracking Legally Losing Confidentiality

Google monitors, collects, and keeps a shockingly huge chunk of information on you.

Do You Feel in Control of Your Privacy?

Nearly every online and offline transactional process surely involves letting go of some personal information. Google keeps tabs on your online activity, especially when you’re signed in to your Google account. Every online activity becomes part of your Google profile. A McAfee survey result showed that over 40% of worldwide internet users feel a lack of control over how their personal data is gathered and used.

Personal Data Collection

Personal data includes personal information associated with a person that could be used to identify the individual or describe the individual’s persona. Information such as; email address, physical address phone number, credit card details, date of birth, location, social security number, search history, and online activity log are described as personal data. It should be noted that personal data is beyond the usual letter-number type of information. Device location history (including the routes and time spent), facial voice recognition, and recognition are also features that could be used to compromise personal security.

Your Location Could Put You at a Crime Scene

This was the case of Zachary McCoy, a 30-year-old Gainesville resident who recently was a suspect in an ongoing police investigation of a burgled house in the Gainesville neighborhood. The burglary incident which initially had no suspects, not until the police used a “geofence warrant.” Geofence warrant is a surveillance tool used by law enforcement agencies to draw sensitive data from GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular connections from users within the proximity of the crime scene, casting a virtual dragnet to rake in suspects for ongoing investigations.

McCoy, who had his bike rides and exercise activity record synced to his google accounts via an app (RunKeeper) that tells him how much distance he’s covered with his bike and how much time it takes him to do so. It was his location history during one of his rides as he rode around the street on which the burgled house was situated. This singular location positioning by google made him a suspect in the police investigations.

Data Collection Concerns.

With data collection and data privacy issues becoming a major trend across the globe, concerns over how data collected are being secured or utilized seems to be scrutiny, and we can never get enough of it. What measures are in place to know how secure, how private your data is or just how long your data will remain private until Law Enforcement agencies need it or another company needs access to all information collected on you?

These questions on data privacy concern nearly all tech companies, including well known global giants, multinational corporations, and smaller companies that offer different products and services to internet users.

You Need the Law to Fight the Law

An email from Google’s legal investigation support team made McCoy aware that the police were demanding information on his Google account. And Google was going to release all needed information to the police if he did not try to block it by the due legal process.

Luckily for McCoy, He was able to get himself a lawyer, Caleb Kenyon, who dug around and found out more information on the geofence warrant, as the number of warrants issued has also increased incredibly within the last two years. This has led to law enforcement agencies’ ability to access and extract data from several persons who have absolutely zero connections with the crime habitually. Google has described this process as a major invasion of privacy.

McCoy’s Lawyer had a motion filed to render the geofence warrant null and void, prohibiting the release of any additional information on McCoy. The Google geofence warrant is described as a great technology and an excellent tool for tracking investigations and optimizing processes.

Eventually, the Gainesville Police Department later reverted to the motion filed by Kenyon, saying that details in the motion brought to light a compelling belief that McCoy was not the burglar they were looking for. With this, the Police Department dropped all warrants, and Zachary McCoy was no longer considered a suspect in the burglary case.

Third-Party Advertisers

Have you ever noticed some of your recent Google searches on products popping up as ads on your phone, or products and services that you chatted about with your colleagues and friends popping up in the google suggestion bar?

Google and Facebook run a surveillance-based business model. With a mission boldly stated as “Organizing the World’s Information” might also involve capturing your information. This information gathering forms a base of some intriguingly unique services that help fuel the advertising revenue stream, which is a chunk of the company’s revenue.

Irrespective of Google’s increased efforts to increase transparency, recent information brought to light reveals that Google secretly shares users’ confidential data with third-party advertisers.

The Fight for Data Privacy Still Continues.

Summarily, Zachary McCoy’s case is one of several millions of internet users having issues with data privacy and data breaches. An avid example of such a case was the man that was wrongly arrested and jailed for murder with data obtained via the geofence warrant. Google also stopped providing services to wireless network carriers via its Google Mobile Network Insights Service. This was described as a decision to minimalize data sharing service instead of risking a security breach or closer scrutiny from lawmakers. Lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe have also taken the data privacy fight on tech companies to another level, especially against giants such as Facebook and Google, who have been plagued by data and privacy issues over the last few years.

The fight for data privacy continues.

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