Google’s Huge Sensorvault Location Database Provides Law Enforcement with Lists of Devices Near Crime Scenes

If you find this useful please share it!


Google is providing law enforcement agencies with lists of devices it has identified as being in the area of a crime scene at the time of the crime. With the data from Google’s massive device location database called Sensorvault, law enforcement then creates lists of possible suspects and witnesses.

In order to have the data from Google’s Sensorvault provided to them, law enforcement agencies provide Google with a so-called ‘geofence warrant’ – i.e. a warrant that says, in essence, “provide the device data for all devices that were in the area of a particular location, at a particular time.”


Sample Geofence Warrant
real example sample geofence warrant
example sample geofence warrant google

Let’s look at those highlighted paragraphs a little more closely, shall we?

location geofence warrant

This says that the Palm Beach County, Florida, Sheriff’s department is requiring that Google share with them location data for “any devices using Google Location Services, utilizing either tower based locations, wifi, or GPS based locations” which devices were in the area “bordered to the north at 26.947300°, -80.357595°, to the east at 26.94672°, -80.356715°, to the south at 26.946227°, -80.357316°, and to the west at 26.946762°, -80.358073° on March 7, 2016 between the timeframe of 2:00am (eastern time) to 8:00am (eastern time).”

So anybody using any of Google’s services through which location is recorded who passed near that location in that 6 hour period is fair game.

You will also notice that the demand is for a list that includes phone numbers and email addresses, as well as device identifiers.

Now on to this paragraph:

We know you're sick of ads on websites. But we still need to pay to keep the lights on for you. So instead of huge ads and video ads, we use smaller, plainer ads. Still, if you'd like to support the Internet Patrol but not the ads, please consider supporting us here:
Donate via Paypal
Other Amount:

geofence location device warrant

(Article continues below)
Get notified of new Internet Patrol articles for free!
Or Read Internet Patrol Articles Right in Your Inbox!
as Soon as They are Published! Only $1 a Month!

Imagine being able to read full articles right in your email, or on your phone, without ever having to click through to the website unless you want to! Just $1 a month and you can cancel at any time!
Google’s Huge Sensorvault Location Database Provides Law Enforcement with Lists of Devices Near Crime Scenes

“Due to the sensitivity of this on-going criminal investigation, the notification to the listed subscriber by Google that these records have been released to a law enforcement agency could compromise this investigation as well as the safety of law enforcement officers participating in the investigation. Based on these facts, it is further ordered that the customer/subscriber is not to be notified of the release of this information, as it could jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation.” (Emphasis ours)

This has been going on since federal agents first used it in 2016, however the New York Times blew it wide open over the weekend. An unnamed Google employee told the Times that Google now receives as many as 180 geofence warrant requests a week.

Not surprisingly – and, in fact, predictably – this has led to innocent people being charged with some pretty serious crimes.

Just last year, Jorge Molina was charged with the murder of a Phoenix, Arizona resident. According to the Times, the police told Mr. Molina that “they had data tracking his phone to the site where a man was shot nine months earlier.” But, as it turns out, it wasn’t Molina at all – in fact the police later arrested and charged Mr. Molina’s mother’s ex-boyfriend, but not before Molina had spent a week in jail, accused of a crime which he hadn’t committed, because the data from Google Sensorvault had placed Molina’s phone near the crime scene.

And in a case in Minnesota, just in the past 6 months, the geofence warrant was so broad as to location that, according to Minnesota Public Radio, the warrant “had the potential to gather data on tens of thousands of Minnesotans.”

scope of geofence warrant
Credit: Minnesota Public Radio

Says former prosecutor Jonathan Jones, now on faculty at Elon University in North Carolina, “We are willingly sharing an awful lot of our lives with Google. But do people understand that in sharing that information with Google, they’re also potentially sharing it with law enforcement?” {TIP note: ..and hackers}>/i>

We actually first told you about law enforcement using Google location for mobile devices over a year ago, when we told you about warrants being served on Google for all mobile devices in a given area. For those of you who still fall into the “I don’t care what they know or track about me, I have nothing to hide” camp, this should be a wake up call.

No Paywall Here!
The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free? Thank you!

Google’s Huge Sensorvault Location Database Provides Law Enforcement with Lists of Devices Near Crime Scenes

Get notified of new Internet Patrol articles!
People also searched for a search database of ongoing criminal inveztigation, does goole sensorvault track old cell phone without gps or internet, geofence warrant sample, https://clicks aweber com/y/ct/?l=8EGJs&m=J4ACosw4r6K295&b=1bBO5H4Pzrcj6QmqpY7xFA, sensorvault example data, sensorvault law enforcement

If you find this useful please share it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *