Sensorvault, a large database created by Google, has emerged as an almost indispensable tool for US investigators. But its use raises many questions about the privacy of users. It is demonstrated by a long article in the columns of the New York Times.
The reputation of the New York Times was not built in a snap. The publication of in-depth surveys and articles have built its reputation over the years, propelling the American media among the most respected dailies in the world. One of the latest studies published on his website perfectly reflects his quality journalistic work.
Sensorvault, a failed vocation?
After a week behind bars, Jorge Molina was released. His mother’s ex-boyfriend, who was spotted several times behind the wheel of the famous white Honda Civic, became the number one suspect. Touched by this event, and arrested a few weeks earlier at his workplace, Jorge Molina lost his job in the process, just like his car, seized for the sake of the investigation. Talking about simple collateral damage, in this case, is difficult.
For Google employees, Sensorvault was not designed to meet the needs of law enforcement. However, the various cases mentioned above prove the opposite. Washington State’s chief prosecutor, Gary Ernsdorff, reassured the most skeptical: “We won’t charge just anyone because Google said this or that suspect was there. The case of Jorge Molina, in addition to contradicting him, tends to be very worrying.
Sensorvault, an increasingly popular tool
But Sensorvault is proving to be a gold mine of information for American investigators, reveals the NYT. For several months, this valuable tool has been the subject of a certain amount of covetousness on the part of the police. Thanks to mandates submitted to Google’s legal department, they are authorized to access this massive database.
The four-colored colossus must then collaborate by providing precise information according to predefined search areas. The fact is that the number of mandates has visibly exploded over the past six months, according to employees of the Californian company. Up to 180 requests were registered in one week — a very sharply rising trend since its inauguration in 2016.
The respect for privacy is being questioned
But the power of Sensorvault opens many other doors: the history of a user’s movements beyond the search area established by the mandate is also listed. When police officers confine themselves to a restricted area, and a suspect or witness appears to have been identified, then Google can provide their identity. In the case of the Austin case, the suspect committed suicide three days after a fourth explosive explosion.
To what extent did Sensorvault support the Federal Bureau of Investigation? A spokeswoman for the US agency refused to go into detail: there is no discussion to have on technical issues, she justified herself. However, other American investigators have praised the accuracy of the data collected in cases other than Austin’s.