Colorado Supreme Court Approves Use of Google Search History as Evidence in Murder Cases
In a landmark ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court has approved the use of Google search history as evidence in murder cases. This decision sets a notable precedent in favor of utilizing such data in prosecution, providing a new avenue for law enforcement to investigate and solve crimes.
The court’s ruling came in response to an investigation into a tragic 2020 fire that claimed the lives of five people in Denver. Authorities sought information from Google by sending a keyword search warrant, requesting details on individuals who may have searched for the address of the house that was set ablaze. Based on the data obtained from Google’s search history, three teenagers were arrested. However, one of the teenagers’ lawyers challenged the legality of the data search, marking the first legal challenge to the collection of search engine data through a warrant.
In its ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court stated that the police had acted in good faith in requesting the warrant. The court emphasized that the requested information was specific and focused, rather than being broad in intent. However, they noted that this ruling neither condones nor condemns all future warrants of this nature. The court emphasized its readiness to address any potential issues that may arise from the use of rapidly advancing technology in law enforcement, acknowledging concerns about dystopian consequences.
The decision was not unanimous, with Justice Monica Marquez expressing her dissent. Justice Marquez argued that the ruling gives law enforcement constitutional cover to access the private lives of individuals not just in Colorado but globally. In her dissenting opinion, she predicted that reverse-keyword warrants would become a common investigative tool due to their convenience in generating a list of potential suspects.
The judges of the Supreme Court grappled with the sensitive nature of a person’s Google search history, highlighting its ability to provide profound insights into an individual’s mind. While keyword search warrants have been utilized in the past, their use has faced increased scrutiny, particularly following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. Privacy advocates have expressed concerns that keyword search warrants could be exploited to prosecute women in states where abortion is banned.
According to Bloomberg, the police are increasingly relying on warrants to request location and search data from Google. This practice has also been adopted by federal agencies and has drawn scrutiny from Congress.
The ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court opens the door for the use of Google search history as evidence in murder cases. While this decision solidifies the admissibility of such data in court proceedings, it also raises important privacy and ethical questions. As technology continues to advance, there is a need to strike a balance between law enforcement’s access to information for investigation purposes and protecting individuals’ rights to privacy. The implications of this ruling extend beyond Colorado, as it sets a precedent that may influence similar cases in other jurisdictions.