FBI used secret Google tracking data to nab Capitol rioters

Federal prosecutors have cited secretive “geofence” warrants — which allow law enforcement to pinpoint cell-phone users’ precise locations over time — in 45 Capitol riot cases, including six where where suspects had not previously been identified.

Geofence warrants, also known as reverse-location warrants, allow law enforcement to obtain data from Google to identify potential suspects. “Unlike ordinary warrants for electronic records that identify the suspect in advance of the search, geofence warrants essentially work backwards by scooping up the location data from every device that happened to be in a geographic area during a specific period of time in the past,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation explained.

Wired reported Thursday that “while Google receives over 10,000 geofence warrants for location data in the US a year, those covering the Capitol breach appear to have been particularly productive, apparently enabling the FBI to build a large, searchable database in their hunt for the rioters.”

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