Not many people are aware of the fact that law enforcement agencies around the country are making use of Google’s location tracking database called Sensorvault to crack criminal cases. Location history of suspected people passing through a scene of crime is traced by the authorities using this database. This information was revealed in an article published in New York Times some time ago.
Google maintains a database of location history of all smartphones being used around the world. Sensorvault gives Google complete information about movement of all smartphones. Google then shares these details with law enforcement agencies to help them in solving criminal cases. It is not that Google hands out its entire database to the authorities. It is only when the authorities have shortlisted the suspects that Google shares location history of smartphones of these individuals. Also, this location history pertains to only a certain time period before and after a crime has taken place.
Now, U.S Congress is seeking answers for some questions regarding this database from none other than the CEO of Google, Sundar Pitchai. Members of Energy and Commerce Committee have written an open letter to Google, asking how this database is maintained and used to help authorities in solving criminal cases.
The members of this committee have raised concerns about the possible violations of the right to privacy of the common people. These members are worried that Google is collecting information about innocent people without their consent or even knowledge. The feel there can be serious ramifications of this action by Google with far reaching consequences. They want concrete answers from Google about the real purpose for creating this database. They also want to know the extent to which the collected information is shared by Google with the law enforcement authorities.
As the letter is open, here are the detailed questions to which answers have been sought from the giant tech company by May 10 2019.
- What is the information collected by Google and how is it used by the company?
- Who has the access to this database?
- Is there any other similar database with Google?
- What are the roles of Google employees having access to this database?
- Which sources are used by Google to collect information for this database?
- Are people aware of their information being collected by Google? Do they have an option to opt out from being tracked by Google?
- What is the policy of the company regarding the information gathered inside the database in the long run?
- Is the information collected in Sensorvault ever revealed, shared, or sold by Google to third parties?
Frank Pallone, who is the Chairman of this committee, and also a New Jersey Democrat, has reportedly asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai to give his reply on the above mentioned points by May 10. This request has also been made by Greg Walden, another member of the U.S Congress, who happens to be a Republican.