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If You’re Close to the Scene of a Crime, Police Can Demand Google Hand Over Your Data

Google reverse location search warrants have privacy and civil liberties advocates concerned.

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(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.

By Aaron Kesel | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Palestinian Writer Kicked Out of His Neighborhood by Israelis for Viral CNN, MSNBC Interviews

Elias Marat

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A prominent Palestinian writer has been expelled from his home after delivering a powerful message about the actions of Israeli occupation forces on CNN and MSNBC.

As Israel continues to back the theft of homes by illegal Jewish settlers in Jerusalem, it has delivered harsh blows against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, resulting in about 1,000 injured and a fast-rising civilian death toll of at least 139 Palestinians.

Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian writer and activist who resides in Sheikh Jarrah, has been making appearances this week to discuss his personal experience of the wave of dispossessions and displacements enforced by Israeli authorities in Palestinian neighborhoods. His powerful interviews have gone viral.

As punishment for speaking to the international press about his people’s plight, El-Kurd was removed from his own neighborhood by Israeli military forces.

In the video, a woman can be heard pleading in Arabic for the soldiers to “leave him” while El-Kurd defiantly challenged the soldiers: “Hit me! Hit me!”

The expulsion of El-Kurd from his neighborhood is believed to be a direct result of his outspoken and blunt discussion of what he describes to CNN as “the violent dispossession” of Palestinian families.

He also described the forced eviction of Palestinians from their ancestral land as “forced ethnic displacement,” despite Israeli courts’ legal claims. El-Kurd pointed out that international law does not grant legal jurisdiction to Israeli courts over occupied East Jerusalem or the ability to evict Palestinians from their homes.

In a separate interview with MSNBC, the write blasted the Israelis for resorting to “supremacist, colonial judicial system” that works with civilian organizations to remove Palestinian Arab residents from their homes and replace them with Jewish settlers, many of whom hail from Europe and the United States.

“Today the difference we have is that they no longer use their artillery to steal our homes except when they do come and steal their homes,” he said. “Now they use a supremacist, colonial judicial system that colludes with organizations to take our homes. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s moral or correct or historically just. What’s happening to us is ethnic cleansing.”

Despite the traumatic experience of being expelled from his home, El-Kurd later tweeted that he was “fine & unintimidated.”

On Friday, the United Nations said that it believes that some 10,000 Palestinians have been forced to abandon their homes amid the escalating offensive by Israeli forces.

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WATCH: Video Shows Bullets Fly as Armored Car Crew Narrowly Escapes Brutal Heist

Elias Marat

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Dramatic dash cam footage from Pretoria, South Africa, shows the moment that the crew of an armored car narrowly escaped an attempt by armed robes to stage a heist.

The shocking video shows a pair of private security officers transporting cash in a bulletproof Toyota truck on April 22 before they suddenly come under attack by armed assailants.

For the first minute of the roughly three-minute-long video, the security guards can be seen routinely driving down a highway.

The vehicle then comes under fire as bullets can be heard slamming into the driver side of the car, with the window by the driver’s side shattering.

The driver, who maintains his calm and composure during the attack, manages to escape amid the traffic. He also seems to slam into one of the two vehicles belonging to the attackers.

“They’re going to shoot. They’re going to f**king shoot,” the driver then says, urging his colleague to pull out the rifle and prepare to defend their lives.

As gunshots continue to ring out, the two drive silently as the tension builds. The driver then shouts to his colleague: “Phone Robbie, phone Josh! Ask them where they are.”

As the video ends, the driver can be seen stopping the vehicle and grabbing his colleague’s rifle. At that point, it becomes clear that the assailants have realized that their attack was futile they had already fled the scene.

The suspects fired several shots at the [Cash-In-Transit] vehicle in an attempt to stop it during a high-speed chase,” said police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo , reports News24. 

“The driver of the CIT vehicle managed to evade the robbers for a while but later stopped in wait for the robbers,” Naidoo added. “The robbers fled without taking any money. No arrests have yet been made.”

Online users have praised the steel nerves of the armored car’s crew in navigating what could have been a deadly attack.

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After Strong Backlash, NYPD Kicks Robotic Dog “Spot” to the Curb

Kenny Stancil

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The New York City Police Department decided this week to stop leasing a robotic dog from Boston Dynamics following a sustained outcry from residents and lawmakers, who denounced the use of the high-tech, four-legged device in low-income neighborhoods as a misallocation of public resources and violation of civil liberties.

When the NYPD acquired the K-9 machine last August, officials portrayed “Digidog”—the department’s name for the camera-equipped, 70-pound robot—as “a futuristic tool that could go places that were too dangerous to send officers,” the New York Times reported earlier this week.

Inspector Frank Digiacomo of the department’s Technical Assistance Response Unit said in a television interview in December: “This dog is going to save lives. It’s going to protect people. It’s going to protect officers.”

Instead—thanks to strong backlash from critics, including people who live in the Bronx apartment complex and the Manhattan public housing building where the robotic dog was deployed in recent weeks—the department is returning “Spot,” as Boston Dynamics calls the device, months earlier than expected.

According to the Times:

In response to a subpoena from City Councilman Ben Kallos and Council Speaker Corey Johnson requesting records related to the device, police officials said that a contract worth roughly $94,000 to lease the robotic dog from its maker, Boston Dynamics, had been terminated on April 22.

John Miller, the police department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, confirmed on Wednesday that the contract had been canceled and that the dog had been returned to Boston Dynamics or would be soon.

Miller told the Times that the police had initially planned to continue testing the K-9 machine’s capabilities until August, when the lease had been scheduled to end.

The robotic dog came under increased scrutiny in February, after it was deployed in response to a home invasion at a Bronx apartment building, as Common Dreams reported at the time.

“Robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted in response. “Please ask yourself: when was the last time you saw next-generation, world class technology for education, healthcare, housing, etc. consistently prioritized for underserved communities like this?” 

And earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, footage of the robotic dog walking through a Manhattan public housing building went viral, sparking additional outrage and prompting a city council investigation.

“Why the hell do we need robot police dogs?” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) asked at the time. 

While there are “people living in poverty, struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head, take care of their kids, afford child care—all this going on, and now we got damn robot police dogs walking down the street,” Bowman lamented.

Bill Neidhardt, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who urged the police department to reconsider its use of the robot following objections from residents and lawmakers, said he was “glad the Digidog was put down.”

“It’s creepy, alienating, and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers,” Neidhardt said.

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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