Let’s face it. It’s convenient to hop in the car enter or speak an address into your I-phone or other smart device and have the phone direct you to the location. Just a few years ago, we would have had to use our computers at home or the office for such information. Now, we can do it while we are in the car and moving. The technology Google, Apple, and other high-tech companies employ have made our lives easier in some ways but there is a price to pay for these conveniences.
The NY Times published a harrowing story of an innocent man who spent time in jail as a suspect in a homicide because the police used information obtained in a warrant served on Google to determine who was in the area at the time the homicide took place.
“When detectives in a Phoenix suburb arrested a warehouse worker in a murder investigation last December, they credited a new technique with breaking open the case after other leads went cold.
The police told the suspect, Jorge Molina, they had data tracking his phone to the site where a man was shot nine months earlier. They had made the discovery after obtaining a search warrant that required Google to provide information on all devices it recorded near the killing, potentially capturing the whereabouts of anyone in the area.
Investigators also had other circumstantial evidence, including security video of someone firing a gun from a white Honda Civic, the same model that Mr. Molina owned, though they could not see the license plate or attacker.
But after he spent nearly a week in jail, the case against Mr. Molina fell apart as investigators learned new information and released him. Last month, the police arrested another man: his mother’s ex-boyfriend, who had sometimes used Mr. Molina’s car.”
“The warrants, which draw on an enormous Google database employees call Sensorvault, turn the business of tracking cellphone users’ locations into a digital dragnet for law enforcement. In an era of ubiquitous data gathering by tech companies, it is just the latest example of how personal information — where you go, who your friends are, what you read, eat and watch, and when you do it — is being used for purposes many people never expected. As privacy concerns have mounted among consumers, policymakers and regulators, tech companies have come under intensifying scrutiny over their data collection practices.
The Arizona case demonstrates the promise and perils of the new investigative technique, whose use has risen sharply in the past six months, according to Google employees familiar with the requests. It can help solve crimes. But it can also snare innocent people.”
When your every move, every conversation, every click on the computer or phone can be traced, that’s not such a good thing. It can be used by law enforcement and criminals to do some pretty nefarious stuff. And the worst of it is we have no way to protect ourselves.
Welcome to the 21st century!