Law enforcement taps Google's Sensorvault for location data, report says

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Now, a new report claims that Google is facing increasing requests from law enforcement to tie users with a Google Account to the location of a crime. The Times investigation revealed that Google regularly uses its in-house database known as Sensorvault to help law enforcement.

Google uses the database to give police data from phones at a specific time or location.

A new frontier in crime investigation relies on the ultimate tracking device-and it's right in your purse or pocket, the New York Times reports. While that drives their ad business, the law information agencies have started to value such data for their policing activities, with location history being among the most favoured info the cops have latched onto in recent times. This year, one Google employee said, the company received as many as 180 requests in U.S. in a week's time. While the police could also pull similar data from a carrier's records of cell phone (Android or iPhone) to tower pings, the Google data is much more accurate with regard to a specific vicinity thanks to your smartphone's Global Positioning System.

"We vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement", Richard Salgado, Google's director of law enforcement and information security, said in a statement. "We have created a new process for these specific requests designed to honor our legal obligations while narrowing the scope of data disclosed and only producing information that identifies specific users where legally required". Police can follow device-data linked to crime scenes and, once narrowed down, receive names, email addresses, and other personal data from Google. "But he was released from jail after a week, when investigators pinpointed and arrested another suspect", the report added, citing an example of an innocent getting into trouble because of Google's data.

That includes providing the cops with more general Location History info before the agencies come up with more concrete and actionable details for Google to reveal more specific info. Google has also been subjected to scrutiny after it was revealed that the search engine giant had been tracking people's location even after they turned off location-sharing on their phones.

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