Government Using Keyword Warrants to Request Data
When you run a search on any engine, such as Google, you likely assume that no one else really takes the time to look at it. It’s stored in your search history on your device, but you don’t think any outside parties are going to look at it or connect it with you specifically. And, in the vast majority of cases, this is certainly true.
However, this data is stored by the search engine. They know who ran the search, what terms were used and things of this nature. Recently, it has come to light that the U.S. government has executed keyword warrants as a way to gather information on potential suspects. Essentially, they demanded that tech companies like Google offer the names, IP addresses and other information for users who searched for very specific terms. The tech companies then have to comply and hand this information over, all without the person who ran the search knowing it’s happening.
Why Do They Do It?
The reasons for this have been fairly few and far between, but they’ve generally revolved around fraud or abuse charges. Likewise, the search terms have been so specific that it’s unlikely most people would ever have used them. For instance, one request was for information on people who had directly searched for the exact name of a victim of fraud. While no one knows how many names, IP addresses and other pieces of information were turned over, it does seem likely that most internet users were not on that list.
Even so, it sheds light on the fact that everything you do online is technically not private. It’s recorded in one fashion or another. Those records are linked to you. They can be compiled when needed, and it is possible for a third party to get the records in situations like this.
Will This Change How People Search?
The good news is that this is unlikely to change how people use or view search engines. The impact would only really make itself known if people felt like the authorities were actively watching every search they ran. These events seem uncommon and they impact a tiny fraction of a percent of users even when they do. While the media has been causing this story to make the rounds, web developers, content creators, site owners and others should not worry much about a wholesale change at this time. It’s only something to keep an eye on if things start to shift significantly and these requests become common.
The internet can be a complex place, though, and stories like this help to show how perceptions can change and how information is gathered. When doing your own site development and trying to take all of this into account, it’s beneficial to work with SEO experts and design teams.