Privacy advocates and law enforcement are currently at odds over this issue when it comes to internet activity. In a recent case, a search warrant has been issued to Google over an identity theft crime.
The victim in the case had funds stolen from their bank account, and the transactions were completed due to a fake U.S. passport. With so much information about the victim used in the crime—including name, birthdate, a photo, and Social Security number—someone may have gained access to this person’s personal data online.
The search warrant in question is what has experts concerned. Authorities investigating the case want Google to turn over any information they have, including IP addresses, for anyone who searched for the victim’s name online between December 2016 and January 2017. A judge has found sufficient reason for the information to be turned over to the police, and has signed off on the warrant.
As might be expected, Google is not pleased by this request. Anyone is free to use the search engine, whether they create a Google account or not, so providing the IP address of every individual who searched for that name would not necessarily mean they’d uncovered the guilty party. Moreover, there’s a matter of trust at stake; tech users aren’t fond of having their internet activity tracked and they certainly don’t want that information turned over to the authorities.
This type of conundrum is a fact of the digital age, and it’s possible that it will only grow as new forms of internet crimes and new methods of investigation come along. As with any type of criminal matter, it’s important to weigh the right to privacy against the needs of society, and vice versa.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.