Many people tend to assume, and in some cases correctly, that everything they do online is monitored in some way. This is often the result of what’s known as surveillance fatigue, which is a natural response to the chronic information breaches and infringements of privacy rights that come with online life.
However, in most cases, even the NSA can’t get their hands on all of your online information without overcoming some legal obstacles. That’s where keyword warrants come in.
Warrants based on keywords instead of individuals
Keyword warrants enable a surveillance dragnet to catch individuals who look up certain words or phrases that are considered serious legal red flags. Rather than rooting through a specific person’s online information, such as their Google searches or websites they visit, the government has begun issuing blanket requests for information on everyone who googled specific terms.
These may be words and phrases like “arson” or “how to get away with fraud,” which may seem like enough to give government agencies and law enforcement pause. However, there are myriad reasons why a person might type certain red-flagged topics into a search engine, be it research for a project or simply human (and perhaps a little morbid) curiosity. And with these keyword warrants, it creates a situation where innocent people may have their personal lives fished through and sometimes results in criminal charges.
The good news about keyword warrants is that there haven’t been many of them so far. It still takes a significant red flag associated with a word or phrase for the warrant to be served. Still, this is a key development for the public to remain cognizant of.
One thing that people can do to protect their online privacy and avoid facing a criminal charge is by using search engines that are a bit “off the beaten trail.” One popular alternative to Google or Bing, for instance, is DuckDuckGo.
It’s wise to be careful what you choose to type into Google because you never know how it will impact your privacy. Through the use of keyword warrants, government agencies are able to access the online information of everyone who searches for certain red-flagged terms. This is important for any internet user to know so they avoid unnecessary legal entanglements.