Tell Google: Shut down Sensorvault
Imagine being at a social justice rally, when a crime happens a mile or two away. Now you and the thousands of people who attended are suspects. And guess who turned you in: Google.
Google knows where you are right now, even if location tracking on your Google apps is turned off. Worse, the company is handing over your location information to law enforcement agencies.1
This is a gross breach of privacy and it needs to stop immediately. It's time we expose and hold Google accountable for collaborating with law enforcement and secretly surveilling people's activities through its dangerous Sensorvault program.
Tell Google: Stop the surveillance. Shutdown Sensorvault.
You don't have to be involved in a crime to be targeted by the police when you're in the vicinity of a crime. Google's Sensorvault stores your minute-by-minute travel via the Google apps on your mobile phone. One chief of police even boasted that Google can go beyond just a single location to show your "pattern of life."2
For almost 10 years, Sensorvault and its use by law enforcement was a well-kept secret until the New York Times exposed Google's operation.
The tech company says you can "pause" the location history setting on your phone, but that simply is not true. Some Google apps will still automatically time- and location-stamp your whereabouts without your explicit consent. 3
Data privacy is an issue that affects us all, but people of color, undocumented people and LGBTQ+ people are at an even higher risk when law enforcement gets involved. Google storing location data is as much of a privacy issue as it is a human rights issue. If Google's Sensorvault continues to run, communities who are already over-policed can be unjustly targeted, faster. This means more deportations and family separations, more violence against black bodies, and more gender and sexuality criminalization.
Once Google hands over people's data to the police, there's no transparency and virtually no limit to what officers can do with that information. Even the government is skeptical of Google's data storing practices. In April, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee publicly called for answers from Google's CEO on Sensorvault. However, Google provided no answers, and the committee failed to follow-up.4
We cannot let this stand. The time is now to take back our data privacy.
- Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, "Tracking Phones, Google Is a Dragnet for the Police," The New York Times, April 13, 2019.
- Jennifer Lynch, "Google's Sensorvault Can Tell Police Where You've Been," Electronic Frontier Foundation, April 18, 2019.
- Ryan Nakashima, "AP Exclusive: Google tracks your movements, like it or not," Associated Press, August 13, 2018.
- Juliegrace Brufke, "Congress has questions for Google's 'Sensorvault,'" The Hill, April 24, 2019.