Google says it gave search data to Edina police – but not everything they asked for

A search warrant has asked Google for personal info on any resident that Googled someone's name over a five-week period.

Edina police got some type of data from Google as part of an investigation – but the internet giant says it wasn't nearly as much as authorities had asked for.

The original story in this case was first reported by Tony Webster. He found a detective with the Edina Police Department applied for a search warrant to obtain Google search records. What did the detective want?

"[N]ames, email addresses, account information, and IP addresses of anyone who searched variations of the victim’s name over a five-week period of time," Webster wrote.

The investigation involves a resident who was scammed out of $28,500 – Edina police are trying to identify the culprit, as the Star Tribune explained.

So if a resident Googled the victim's name during those five weeks, your personal information could have been turned over to police as part of an active investigation.

A judge in February signed off on the request, Webster said.

The latest: Edina got ... something

This week, CityPages reported court documents indicate Edina investigators were able to access and download the search warrant results from an online portal Google had set up.

What was in them exactly? A spokesperson for Edina told GoMN they still can't comment because it's an ongoing investigation.

But Google, in a statement sent to GoMN by a spokesperson, said it was able to push back and make changes.

"We objected to the warrant and significantly narrowed its scope to the point that only one record was produced," the spokesperson said, adding they're "pleased" it got resolved "in a way that preserves our users' privacy."

The spokesperson said they can't offer any more details than that, since it's an ongoing criminal case.

Why the concern?

The ACLU of Minnesota when the story first broke called the request an "unreasonable search," and therefore a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment says your personal possessions can not be searched without getting a warrant – and that there has to be "probable cause" to issue it.

The ACLU described Edina's request as "overbroad," saying it "compromises the privacy and data security of thousands of innocent people, 99 percent, or maybe 100 percent, of whom are not even suspected of criminal activity, much less guilty of it."

Figuring out how exactly the Fourth Amendment works in a time where people have online lives is one of the most-discussed legal challenges right now.

NPR did a story in 2013 explaining how court rulings in the 1970s and 1980s said the government does not need a search warrant to look at personal documents or information if you've shared it with somebody already.

So when you search online, there's an argument you're technically sharing that information with your internet service provider, and the search engine company itself.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which argues for more legal protections of search history, has more information on the issue here.

Next Up