Google‘s cybercrime investigation group allegedly passes along extensive personal details regarding the platform’s far-right users to authorities.
According to The Guardian, Google’s sites show that the search giant did not automatically block users they identified to authorities in certain situations. Others also had other social media accounts, including Twitter.
The users often threatened violence or expressed extremist views otherwise, often associated with the far right.
The documents came from the trove of so-called “Blueleaks.” Hackers acquired the file from the servers of a Texas hosting company used by several law enforcement agencies. The data includes hundreds of thousands of records from over 200 departments, dating from 1996 to June 2020.
Cyber-safety professionals have verified the leak.
What in the document?
The Google papers providing details concerning users were certified by CyberCrime Investigation Group (CIG) of the company. CIG kept the data based on their findings in the reporting of criminal cases. But its actual production to law enforcement officials has rarely been open to public view.
Northern California Regional Intelligence Center receives and keeps the documents from BlueLeaks archive. These include Google records showing extensive customer details of the far-right users. They had the exact names, street addresses, credit card numbers, email addresses, and the date and IP addresses of the latest logins. Even all of the records contain backups of reviews posted by consumers on Google sites such as YouTube.
Mike Sena, NCRIC’s Executive Officer, told The Guardian that Google obtains the data from a specific “monitoring tool.” NCRIC keeps the data for 12 months and review requirements such as “reliability in triage,” Sena added. Asked about how such data are used, Sena said authorities would use the data to “welfare check” the users.
Although several users appear to hold far-right radical views, their accounts and their comments remain uploaded on Google’s services. Even all of the records contain backups of reviews posted by consumers on Google sites such as YouTube.
More advanced approaches classify some apps. Although others are excluded from YouTube, they tend to maintain exposure to other Google services.
However, Google did not directly address specific questions about its monitoring framework, customer safety, and law enforcement cooperation.
Freedom, privacy advocates expressed concern over Google’s move
Freedom and privacy advocates expressed their concern about the role of Google in willingly handing consumer data to law enforcement. They said although several of Google’s records contain abusive or racial warnings, others are more reflective of suicidal attempts or self-harm, or even emotional illness.
Saira Hussein, an Electronic Frontiers Foundation staff representative, challenged the purpose of Google’s move to hand over “vast quantities of consumers.”
“Will they want law enforcement to do something or is this simply a way to cover themselves up? Will Google feel its duty to disclose this clearly to law enforcement and carry on?” said Hussein.
Steven Renderos, executive director of MediaJustice, told The Guardian that Google’s move to pass details to law enforcement for private users is “irresponsible.”
“While the prevalence of hateful activities across Google owned platforms is a real problem, deflecting responsibility to police is not the solution,” Renderos added.