For the first time, Google has published the number of geofence warrants it’s historically received from U.S. authorities, providing a rare glimpse into how frequently these controversial warrants are issued.
The figures, published Thursday, reveal that Google has received thousands of geofence warrants each quarter since 2018, and at times accounted for about one-quarter of all U.S. warrants that Google receives. The data shows that the vast majority of geofence warrants are obtained by local and state authorities, with federal law enforcement accounting for just 4% of all geofence warrants served on the technology giant.
According to the data, Google received 982 geofence warrants in 2018, 8,396 in 2019 and 11,554 in 2020. But the figures only provide a small glimpse into the volume of warrants received and did not break down how often it pushes back on overly broad requests. A spokesperson for Google would not comment on the record.
Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP), which led efforts by dozens of civil rights groups to lobby for the release of these numbers, commended Google for releasing the numbers.
“Geofence warrants are unconstitutionally broad and invasive, and we look forward to the day they are outlawed completely.” said Cahn.
Geofence warrants are also known as “reverse-location” warrants, since they seek to identify people of interest who were in the near vicinity at the time a crime was…