Police departments are using “reverse location search warrants” to force Google to hand over data on anyone near a crime scene. These legal mandates allow law enforcement to sweep up the coordinates and movements of every cellphone in a broad area.
Many privacy advocates argue that these sort of indiscriminate data sweeps are prohibited under the Fourth Amendment, which generally dictates that searches by law enforcement need to be specific and limited only to what’s necessary. One of the main concerns with these generalized searches is that the data of unsuspecting innocent people inevitably falls into the hands of police. Even though these people might not be breaking any laws, the information that such methods dredge up could still be revealing and sensitive.