Judge Grants Warrant On All Google Searches In Minnesota Town For Wire Fraud Victim's Name

How broad can you make a search warrant? Google is currently battling one judge in Minnesota who issued a search warrant on searches potentially related to a wire fraud case.

Spire Credit Union recently notified the authorities that a customer named “Douglas” had transferred $28,500 USD from his bank account. The transfer proved to be fraudulent and it soon became evident that someone had stolen Douglas’ identity. The criminal posed as the victim by faxing a fake United States passport to the bank. The image used on the passport is unfortunately publicly available through a Google search, but does not seem to appear in other search engines. The criminal also used the victim’s name, date of birth and Social Security number.


The Edina, MN police deduced that the criminal had searched for information concerning the victim before committing the crime. In order to help resolve the case, Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson issued a warrant to anyone in Edina, Minnesota who searched for variations of the victim’s name on Google between December 1st, 2016 and January 7th, 2017. To top it off, Google is being asked to hand over the Social Security numbers, account and payment information, and IP and MAC addresses of anyone who searched for the victim’s name.

Law experts are worried about the constitutionality of the warrant. Rob Kahn, a privacy law professor at the University of St. Thomas, remarked, “I’m concerned both about ensnaring innocent people but also … that this become a pattern. It’s certainly a scary slippery slope that they’re setting up here.”Teresa Nelson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, stated, “There’s really very little to connect the fact that there’s a photo attainable on Google with the identity theft. We could have people who are not searching for this individual who are going to be swept up in this.”

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Google receives an increasing number of data requests from the various governments. It has responded to this particular warrant with the statement, “We aren’t able to comment on specific cases, but we will always push back when we receive excessively broad requests for data about our users”.