In January, a Florida resident received a shocking email from Google’s legal investigations support team.
Zachary McCoy was preparing to leave for work at a restaurant in Gainesville, Florida.
NBC News reported that local police were demanding that McCoy turn over information related to his Google account.
The company said it would hand over the data unless he went to court and tried to block it. He only had seven days to get this settled.
“I was hit with a really deep fear,” McCoy, 30, said, although he couldn’t think of any crime he had committed. McCoy had an Android phone, which was connected to his Google account, which has a wide array of Google products, including Gmail and YouTube. At the time, law enforcement wanted access to all of it.
“I didn’t know what it was about, but I knew the police wanted to get something from me,” McCoy said during a recent interview. “I was afraid I was going to get charged with something, I don’t know what.”
In the notice from Google McCoy found and searched for it on the Gainesville Police Department’s website. From there, he found a one-page investigation report on the burglary of an elderly woman’s home from ten months prior. The crime took place less than a mile from the home that McCoy shared with two other roommates.
McCoy became even more confused. He knew he was never involved in the burglary and had never been to the victim’s house.
McCoy was afraid that going to the police would have him arrested. He then went to his parents’ home to explain the situation, which led them to find a lawyer to help out McCoy in this bizarre case.
The lawyer, Caleb Kenyon, discovered that the notice had been propelled by a “geofence warrant,” a police surveillance tool that initiates a systematic search of crime scenes, collecting Google location data, which is gathered from users’ GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular connections from everyone in a certain area.
These warrants, which have recently increased in issuance during the last two years, can help police locate potential suspects when leads go cold. They also collect data from people who have no involvement with the crime, often unknown to them. Even Google described this as “a significant incursion on privacy.”
McCoy checked his phone again. McCoy enjoys biking and he used an exercise-tracking app, RunKeeper, to keep a record of his rides. The app used his phone’s location services, which gave Google a record of his movement. He took a look at the route on the day of the March 29, 2019, burglary and realized that he had passed by the victim’s house three times within an hour. According to McCoy, this is part of the frequent loops he took through his neighborhood,
“It was a nightmare scenario,” McCoy recounted. “I was using an app to see how many miles I rode my bike and now it was putting me at the scene of the crime. And I was the lead suspect.”
The victim of the burglary was a 97-year-old woman who informed police she had several pieces of jewelry, including an engagement ring, worth more than $2,000, stolen. Four days after she reported the burglary, Gainesville police went to an Alachua County judge with the warrant for Google.
In the warrant request, the police officer demanded records of all devices using Google services that were in the vicinity of the woman’s home when the burglary was supposed to have occured
Police agencies across the nation, including the FBI, have been using Google geofence warrants. In a court filing, Google revealed that geofence warrants requests from state and federal law enforcement authorities have been on the uptick recently. According to the NBC News article, “more than 1,500 percent from 2017 to 2018, and by 500 percent from 2018 to 2019.”
Thankfully, McCoy was no longer considered a suspect.
However, this should have privacy advocates concerned.
On the civil liberties front, Big Tech is also dangerous because of its unprecedented ability to track people’s movements. Combined with a power-hungry government, Big Tech could form an unholy alliance with the sole focus of controlling people’s behavior.
For political elites, this could be a dream come true. But for everyday Americans, this would be a dystopian nightmare.
Betrayal? President Trump Flirts with DACA Amnesty
On July 10, 2020, President Trump announced that he would sign “a very major immigration bill” in the next month or so.
This bill would create a “road to citizenship” to approximately 800,000 illegal aliens who are under the umbrella of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In an interview with Telemundo on July 10, Trump said he is crafting an amnesty plan that would allow hundreds of thousands of DACA illegal aliens to stay permanently in the U.S. and eventually receive American citizenship.
Trump said that DACA proposal would be revealed “over the next four weeks.” The president continued:
I’m going to do a big executive order. I have the power to do it as president. And I’m going to make DACA a part of it. But we put it in and we’re probably then going to be taking it out. We’re working out the legal complexities right now, but I’m going to be signing a very major immigration bill as an executive order. I’m going to make DACA a part of it.
No, what I’m going to do is that they’re going to [be] part of a much bigger bill on immigration. It’s going to be a very big bill, a very good bill, and merit-based bill, and it will include DACA, and I think people are going to be very happy.
In the meantime, we’ll put it in, we’ll take it out… I think people are going to be very happy with it, but one of the aspects of the bill, which frankly, nobody knows about until right now because I told no other report[ers], so you have breaking news. Congratulations. But one of the aspects of the bill is going to be DACA. We’re going to have a road to citizenship.
Trump stated that the recent series of Supreme Court rulings have granted him “tremendous powers” over immigration:
If you look at the Supreme Court ruling, they gave the president tremendous powers when they said that you could take in, in this case, 700,000 or so people, so they gave powers. Based on the powers that they gave, I’m going to be doing an immigration bill. One of the aspects of the bill that you will be very happy with, and that a lot of people will be, including me and a lot of Republicans, by the way, will be DACA. It gives them a road to citizenship.
Trump’s comments came following the Supreme Court’s ruling from last month that the Trump administration cannot end Obama’s DACA program and would have to go through another set of paperwork to do so. Trump said he would quickly refile the paperwork to kill DACA at that point in time.
Trump criticized House and Senate Democrats for not cooperating with him on DACA amnesty legislation. He said:
I’m taking care of DACA. I had a deal with the Democrats and they broke the deal. The DACA could have been taken care of two years ago, but the Democrats broke the deal. All of a sudden they just broke it for no reason. Actually, they had a court case that slightly went their way, and they said, ‘Oh, let’s not talk about the deal anymore.’ You remember that. We talked about it.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere revealed that the president is crafting an executive order related to immigration.
As the President announced today, he is working on an executive order to establish a merit-based immigration system to further protect U.S. workers,” Deere commented.
“Furthermore, the President has long said he is willing to work with Congress on a negotiated legislative solution to DACA, one that could include citizenship, along with strong border security and permanent merit-based reforms. This does not include amnesty,” Deere added. “Unfortunately, Democrats have continually refused these offers as they are opposed to anything other than totally open borders.
John Binder of Breitbart News highlighted some of the implications of a DACA amnesty:
A DACA amnesty would put more citizen children of illegal aliens — known as “anchor babies” — on federal welfare, as Breitbart News reported, while American taxpayers would be left potentially with a $26 billion bill.
Any plan to give amnesty to DACA illegal aliens that does not also include provisions to halve legal immigration levels — the U.S. admits about 1.2 million legal immigrants a year at the expense of America’s working and middle class — would give amnestied illegal aliens the opportunity to bring an unlimited number of foreign relatives to the country.
Trump’s remarks were met with pushback from legislators such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who believe that Trump’s decision was unconstitutional
“There is ZERO constitutional authority for a President to create a ‘road to citizenship’ by executive fiat,” Cruz tweeted. “It was unconstitutional when Obama issued executive amnesty, and it would be a HUGE mistake if Trump tries to illegally expand amnesty.”
There is ZERO constitutional authority for a President to create a “road to citizenship” by executive fiat.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 10, 2020
The political implications of such an amnesty could be massive.
Trump must reject DACA and actually implement immigration restriction policies such as ending birthright citizenship, ending chain migration, fully funding the border wall, and implementing an immigration moratorium.
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