GRAND JUNCTION — The Colorado Supreme Court on Thursday ruled legal against a controversial new law enforcement technique used by Denver police to identify three teenagers accused of killing five in a house fire. As we heard the appeal, we addressed privacy and free speech issues. years ago.
The landmark lawsuit marks the first in Colorado, and nationally, according to lawyers, when police obtained a legal search warrant to hand over to Google the account information of users who searched for specific keywords within a specific time frame. We are considering whether it can be issued to
like that “Reverse keyword search warrant, requires Google to scan billions of search histories to find the keywords law enforcement wants. Attorneys challenging the warrant said in oral arguments Thursday that the massive scope amounts to an illegal search that violates Google users’ constitutional protections against free speech and unreasonable searches.Denver District Attorneys for prosecutor Beth McCann argued that it was an acceptable investigative tool that did not violate constitutional or privacy rights.
“The keyword warrant here did a Google search everyone who searched everything For more than two weeks,” said Michael Price, an attorney with the National Association of Criminal Lawyers who opposed the use of the warrant.
Katherine Hansen, Senior Deputy District Attorney for the Denver DA Office, said:
Denver Police Detectives have used one such reverse search warrant to identify three teenagers who are now accused of causing the deaths of a Green Valley ranch fire in August 2020. depended on. 5 members of one familyincluding infants and toddlers.
Kevin Bui, 19, Gavin Seymour, 18, and Dillon Siebert, 17, have each been charged in connection with the killings. Three of her teenagers donned masks and doused the house with gasoline before setting her house on fire just before 3 a.m. on Aug. 5, 2020, according to authorities. cell phone stealer I wanted to stay home and take revenge on the thief.
Siebert, who was 14 at the time, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was 10 years imprisonment of detention. The lawsuit against Buoy and Seymour, who were 16 at the time and charged with first-degree murder, pending Suspending the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision on the legality of the search warrant, This is the point of the lawsuit against them.
In response to the reverse search warrant, Google provided law enforcement with a list of accounts where users searched for the address of the subject home 15 days before the fatal fire. All Google users’ global queries yielded 61 results, including searches made in Colorado and Illinois. Five accounts caught the attention of investigators, ultimately leading to Seymour, Bui, and Siebert.
Unconvicted Seymour appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court after a Denver District Court judge ruled the search warrant was lawful. , heard the case in court as part of the State Community Program Court.
Seymour’s attorneys argued that the reverse keyword search warrant was too broad, violated the privacy rights and free speech of Google users, and amounted to an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In court filings, Seymour’s attorneys compared the search warrant to opening every bank safe deposit box in the world on the premonition that it might contain evidence of a crime. bottom.
“This is a repository of (Google users’) personal papers and effects (search histories and other account content) that belong to them,” the brief says. “A warrant to search your entire Google search history is like having a bank search every safe deposit box in the world for evidence of a crime.”
Hansen countered that the search warrant was narrow, targeted and constitutional, and said there was no breach of privacy because no one had reviewed the search history of the many uninvolved accounts.
“Seymour ignores the reality of what happened in this incident and instead argues that if a Google employee had opened each account’s file to conduct a visual review of all searches performed by that user. In the same way, we would ask this court to handle database queries … then repeated that ‘search’ a ‘billion’ times,” Hansen wrote in court filings. “…the database itself is read, observed, or visualized in a manner that allows Google to see the content of searches made by Google users, other than those matching the keyword terms of the warrant. It was not.”
tattered cover case
The two cited a 2002 Colorado Supreme Court case in which a run-down bookstore in Denver refused to turn over customers’ purchase histories to police. In that case, Thornton police found a methamphetamine lab in the trailer the four of them lived in, and found a tattered-covered mailing envelope addressed to one resident and two copies of instructions for making the drug. I found a book of Officers issued a search warrant to Tattered Cover seeking information on all the books the resident had purchased in her 30 days.
The bookseller refused to comply, and the case went to the Colorado Supreme Court, which ruled that the search warrant was invalid, and the First Amendment to seek and receive information without fear of government surveillance or retaliation. was found to have violated the article. This decision established a higher legal standard that police search warrants must meet in such cases in Colorado. Law enforcement agencies must demonstrate a dire need for information and consider whether there are reasonable alternatives to investigating it, and judges must find that need. Information outweighs any violation of constitutional rights.
Seymour’s attorneys argued that the higher Tattered Cover standard should have applied to the case and that the reverse keyword search warrant failed and should be held invalid.
“Just as buying a book is protected as an expressive activity, you have the right to receive information anonymously on Google Search,” said Price. He said detectives could have discovered the teenager’s identity through conventional investigative methods, such as looking for surveillance footage of people buying masks and gasoline.
Hansen argued that the higher Tattered Cover standard does not apply to Google search warrants. Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser argued in his own brief that the warrant should be upheld because higher standards apply and Denver police meet the standards.
“Writs seeking a record of what an individual searches for online can violate free speech rights in the same way as a warrant seeking a record of a book purchase,” Weiser outlines. . “After all, both book-buying habits and search queries can reveal confidential or sensitive details about an individual’s life choices or political views.”
“It’s not just a haystack”
The judge on Thursday appeared sympathetic to the privacy and First Amendment concerns raised by the reverse keyword search warrant.
They debated whether Google searches should automatically be considered protected speech subject to the Tattered Cover standard, suggesting that any but strict rules would be difficult to enforce.
Judge Monica Marquez told Price, “As far as I understand your point, it’s not just a haystack, haystacks all over the world are being sought for this one needle.” I understand your point that the width of the haystack you are looking for is the problem.”
However, the judge also acknowledged that the warrant in this case sought specific information within a limited time frame, noting that the discrepant account data had not been verified by humans.
“We are not combing through,” said Judge William Hood. “As a government agency, we’re not looking at a ledger that could otherwise spy on personal information. It’s just the computers picking out the 1s and 0s.”
Opinions in Colorado Supreme Court cases are typically issued several months after oral argument.
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/05/05/google-reverse-keyword-search-warrant-colorado-supreme-court-arguments/ Court hears first-of-its-kind challenge to police’s use of Google search terms to identify murder suspects – Orange County Register