Human rights advocates are alleging that Google may be playing a role in the U.S. government's efforts to conduct warrantless searches.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), based in Washington, D.C., filed an amicus brief that makes those allegations in United States v. Wilson, a federal appellate case.
EPIC argues that the federal government is using Google to circumvent the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures without due process or probable cause being established.
'EPIC has filed an amicus brief in United States v. Wilson, a case concerning Google's scanning of billions of personal files for suspected unlawful content, at the behest of the federal government,' EPIC said in a statement late last month.
The U.S. government has increasingly utilized private entities, such as Google, Facebook and Apple, to seize user data from cellphones and computers without the need for a warrant.
Because these entities don't have to abide by the Fourth Amendment, agencies like the FBI can simply subpoena them for records like email messages en masse.
Google and several other companies have agreed to monitor users' emails for images that match up with known child pornography, using a process called image hashing.
It's essentially an automated detection system that allows Google to quickly flag child pornography images when the photograph has the same 'digital fingerprint,' or mathematical hash, as it has on record.
Recently, Google has taken the process a step further and deployed an algorithm to scan email communications for suspected child pornography.
Google hasn't disclosed just how the algorithm works, however, raising concerns that it could be biased or flawed.'
Read more: Human rights group alleges Google may be helping the U.S. government conduct warrantless searches in 'massive file scanning program'
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