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Fraud case: Google to fight Minnesota cops' warrant for data

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18 March 2017

Police searching for a suspect in a Minnesota wire fraud case have obtained a warrant for the records of anyone who searched Google for the victim's name, a broad-reaching request that Google said it plans to fight.

According to the warrant, published this week by blogger Tony Webster, a Minnesota credit union received a wire transfer request in January from someone who it thought was a client, but was in fact a fraudster who sent the credit union a fake copy of the actual account holder's passport to verify the request.

The credit union completed the $28,500 transfer request, and Edina, Minnesota police who are investigating the case have so far been unable to identify the perpetrator. They have, however, located a copy of the fake passport used to verify the transfer, which shows up when performing a Google search for the victim's name.

So the police want Google to give them a list of any information the company has on people who searched for the victim's name between 1 December and 7 January. The victim's first name is Douglas, although Webster redacted the last name in the published warrant. The warrant claims that the police already issued an administrative subpoena for the information, but that Google declined to comply.

In a statement on Friday, Google said it would continue to object to the police's request, potentially igniting another showdown reminiscent of Apple's fight with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Amazon's objection to a similar warrant in an Arkansas murder case.

"We will continue to object to this overreaching request for user data, and if needed, will fight it in court," the company told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We always push back when we receive excessively broad requests for data about our users."

Although Google is pushing back in this case, it frequently complies with law enforcement data requests when it determines them to be of appropriate scope. The company's latest report shows that government agencies in the US made 12,523 requests for data on 27,157 Google users in the second half of 2015, and received some information in 79 per cent of cases.





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