(TMU) — The Gainesville Police Department suspected an innocent man was involved in a burglary so naturally they requested that Google give them all of his location data.
Google’s legal investigations support team wrote to Zachary McCoy telling him that local police were demanding information related to his Google account. Google replied and said it would release the data unless McCoy went to court and tried to block the request, NBC reported.
The man then searched his case number on the Gainesville Police Department website where he found a one-page report on the burglary of an elderly woman’s home ten months earlier on March 29, 2009. Unfortunately for McCoy, the crime occurred less than a mile from the home that he shared with his two roommates.
Caleb Kenyon, McCoy’s lawyer, said he was subject of a “geofence warrant.” A geofence warrant is essentially a virtual dragnet over crime scenes where police request to sweep up Google location data drawn from users’ GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular connections from everyone who is near a crime scene.
From this blanket of surveillance law enforcement then try to figure out which phones may be tied to suspects or possible witnesses. According to journalist Tony Webster, “Law enforcement officials say it’s a promising new technique.”
“A reverse location search warrant differs from a traditional search warrant in that it doesn’t identify a suspect and establish probable cause to ask for evidence of a suspect’s crimes. Instead, it asks for information about everyone in an area at a certain time, working backwards to identify a suspect.”
McCoy used an exercise-tracking app, RunKeeper, to record his rides. The app relied on his phone’s location services, that were then fed to Google. He looked up his route on the day of the burglary and saw that he had passed the victim’s house three times within an hour, part of his frequent loops through his neighborhood.
“It was a nightmare scenario,” McCoy recalled. “I was using an app to see how many miles I rode my bike and now it was putting me at the scene of the crime. And I was the lead suspect.”
McCoy ended up fighting back and winning, resulting in the police dropping their warrant request with the help of his lawyer.
But this isn’t the first time a blanket surveillance warrant has been used, last year in New York law enforcement used a “geofence warrant” against the Proud Boys, a group of pro-Trump rightwing extremists after they allegedly beat up four leftist protesters, believed to be associated with Antifa, outside an Upper East Side event. The four protesters refused to cooperate with police, and authorities were unable to identify them.
As part of their attempt to find their identities, prosecutors sent Google a warrant for phone records near the conflict. However, they ended up collecting multiple innocent people around the area under their dragnet as well, even though they had nothing to do with the crime. Exactly like what happened with McCoy.
And in just one year, 22 Google reverse location search warrants were issued in the state of Minnesota alone.
This type of warrant has privacy and civil liberties advocates concerned. They’re noting that the search has constitutional issues due to protections from unreasonable searches. However, police argue the information alone is not enough to justify charging someone with a crime. But in another case in Arizona, a man was mistakenly arrested and jailed for a murder he didn’t commit, which was largely based on Google data received from a geofence warrant.
“Normally we think of the judiciary as being the overseer, but as the technology has gotten more complex, courts have had a harder and harder time playing that role,” said Jennifer Granick, surveillance and cybersecurity counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union about another case of using geofence surveillance. “We’re depending on companies to be the intermediary between people and the government.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.