A Google car service has become a hotbed for privacy violations, but the company’s search engine also allows companies to track people’s movements.
The Huffington post is reporting that Google will be allowed to conduct “license plate search” on cars in the US and overseas, though not on Americans.
The company has said it won’t be looking for a location’s name, but if a car is parked in a particular spot, Google will get a picture of it and a list of the occupants.
The privacy implications are huge, especially when a license plate is being used to identify someone.
“It’s like you’re giving away something valuable, and Google can be a conduit to track you,” says Matt Kiley, a privacy attorney and technology writer.
“You’re creating an easy way for the government to track your movements.”
It’s not clear what the terms of the agreement are, but Google said it would be following existing privacy rules and “will be transparent with our users and partners.”
It said it was exploring “new ways to further protect users’ privacy.”
The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The US government has been searching for suspected terrorists and people wanted on immigration violations, and there’s no evidence that Google was used to find them.
But privacy advocates say it’s important for law enforcement to be able to monitor people’s behavior.
“This will open up an entirely new way for authorities to access your location, and will make it much easier for law-enforcement to track someone’s movements,” said Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
He said Google’s search results would be “more comprehensive, much more relevant and much more useful than before.”
“This is not a search engine, and it’s not an automated search engine,” he added.