Secret Google Warrants Placed Suspects in the Capitol Riot

Bill Clark/GETTY

Court documents suggest the FBI has been using controversial geofence search warrants at a scale not publicly seen before, collecting account information and location data on hundreds of devices inside the US Capitol during a deadly invasion by a right-wing mob on January 6…

Geofence warrants are intended to locate anyone in a given area using digital services. Google has been the target for many geofence warrants because its location technologies, which leverage GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth signals to pinpoint a phone within a few yards, are powerful and widely used…

…WIRED has found 45 federal criminal cases that cite Google geolocation data to place suspects inside the US Capitol on January 6, including at least six where the identity of the suspect appears to have been unknown to the FBI prior to the geofence warrant. One of these involved a serving Chicago police officer.

But where a typical geofence fishing expedition might catch only one or two suspects, the January 6 investigation appears to have landed a netful. Court documents show that the initial Google geofence warrant included the US Capitol building and the stairs leading down to Capitol plaza. They also reveal that within days or weeks, the FBI had access to personal information about many of their owners, including at least the account name, email, and phone number.

None of the legal experts WIRED spoke with had heard of another case where the personal data for devices in a geofence warrant had been unmasked at this scale.

Fun article. For me, anyway. Anyone who has challenged any portion of American law enforcement should be aware that privacy no longer exists for someone confronting any part of our political system.

Whether fighting racism, confronting our military over any attempt to strengthen global peace, legitimate protests are meat and potatoes for the government gearheads snooping on your life. Been going on for decades. The chuckle here is keeping up with the latest tech. Seeing the rare use on rightwing targets.

And, of course, folks have always been aware of the role played by tech hipsters like GOOGLE who will kiss government butt at the slightest sniff of a chance at Uncle Sugar’s approval. Always time for a quid pro quo.

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