The case is People v. Seymour, and it is perhaps the first U.S. case to address the constitutionality of a keyword warrant. The case involves a tragic home arson in which several people died. Police didn’t have a suspect, so they used a keyword warrant to ask Google for identifying information on anyone and everyone who searched for variations on the home’s street address in the two weeks prior to the arson.
Like geofence warrants, keyword warrants cast a dragnet that requires a provider to search its entire reserve of user data—in this case queries by one billion Google users. As in this case, the police generally have no identified suspects when they obtain a keyword search warrant. Instead, the sole basis for the warrant is the officer’s hunch that the suspect might have searched for something in some way related to the crime.
The best-known definition of tyranny comes from Aristotle’s Politics:
“Any sole ruler, who is not required to give an account of himself, and who rules over subjects all equal or superior to himself to suit his own interest and not theirs, can only be exercising a tyranny.”