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Tech Giant Google Sharing Data With US Forces Raises Concerns

Google has also been subjected to scrutiny after it was revealed that the search engine giant had been tracking people’s location even after they turned off location-sharing on their Android phones

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The Google name is displayed outside the company's office in London, Britain. VOA

At a time when concerns over data collection and breach by tech majors are on the rise, it has been reported that US law enforcement officials have been turning to a particular Google database called “Sensorvault” to trace location and other data of people as part of their investigations.

The database, that is otherwise maintained to collect user-information from Google products for ad targeting, contains detailed location records from hundreds of millions of phones from around the world, CNET reported on Saturday.

On coming under question of exposing personal user data to law enforcement officials, the search engine giant ensured that the information obtained through the database is anonymous and that it reveals specific information only after the police has analysed and narrowed down the devices which would be relevant to the investigation.

“We vigorously protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement,” the report quoted Richard Salgado, Director of law enforcement and information security at Google as saying.

Before the officials could use Google’s data-base for investigation purposes, they require a “geofence” warrant — that specifies an area and a time period that helps Google gather information about the devices that were available in the specified window.

“We have created a new process for these specific requests designed to honour our legal obligations while narrowing the scope of data disclosed and only producing information that identifies specific users where legally required,” Salgado added.

Even though law enforcements seeking help from tech giants is not uncommon, the use of “Sensorvault” data has raised concerns about innocent people who could be wrongly or mistakenly implicated.

Google on an Android device. Pixabay

“The New York Times interviewed a man who was arrested last year in a murder investigation after Google’s data had reportedly landed him on the police’s radar. But he was released from jail after a week, when investigators pinpointed and arrested another suspect,” the report added, citing an example of an innocent getting into trouble because of Google’s data.

Also Read- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s Bizarre Health Regimen Sparks Debate

Tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft and Google have been under global scrutiny following the countess data leak, hacking and non-consensual collection of data scandals.

Facebook particularly, become infamous after it admitted in April 2018 that information of up to 87 million people, mostly US citizens, may have been improperly shared with the British political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

Google has also been subjected to scrutiny after it was revealed that the search engine giant had been tracking people’s location even after they turned off location-sharing on their Android phones.

According to information available on public domains, in 2017, Android accounted for more than 80 per cent of all smartphone sales to end users worldwide and by 2020, 85 per cent ofall smartphones would run the Google-owned operating system. (IANS)

Next Story

Google, Apple Block TikTok Download in India

With over 54 million users every month, TikTok allows its users to create and share videos and these may have inappropriate content

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Google
The Google logo is seen at a start-up campus in Paris, France, Feb. 15, 2018. VOA

Google and Apple have blocked the download of TikTok from Play Store and App Store respectively in India, following a request from the government to ban access to the Chinese short video-sharing app that has been downloaded over 230 million times in the country.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had asked Google and Apple to block the app following the Supreme Court’s refusal to stay the original Madras HC court order on April 3.

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday refused to lift the ban on TikTok and set April 24 the next hearing date.

A Google spokesperson told IANS: “As a policy, we don’t comment on individual apps but adhere to the law in countries we operate in.”

TikTok said in a statement that the company has faith in the Indian judicial system.

“We are optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by over 120 million monthly active users in India, who continue using TikTok to showcase their creativity and capture moments that matter in their everyday lives,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

TikTok
The logo of the TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Feb. 21, 2019. VOA

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to interfere, for now, with the Madras High Court’s order banning Chinese video app TikTok, and directed further hearing in the matter on April 22.

Expressing concern over the “pornographic and inappropriate” contents of the TikTok, the High Court had, on April 3, directed the Centre to ban the app.

The ban order came after the court noted that children were being exposed to pornographic and inappropriate material.

Also Read- Facebook Joins GAME to Train Entrepreneurs in India

With over 54 million users every month, TikTok allows its users to create and share videos and these may have inappropriate content.

The rise of Chinese short video-sharing app TikTok in India has been so spectacular over the past year that it is now nearly impossible for any social media user to not have come across its content.

These user-created videos that often contain memes, lip-syncing songs and sometimes sleazy posts regularly find ways to other popular social media sites including Facebook, WhatsApp and ShareChat. These are the platforms where most adult social media users are now getting introduced to TikTok. (IANS)