clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Recode Daily: Law enforcement agencies are increasingly tapping into Google’s massive location history database

Plus: Amazon is in talks to launch an ad-free music service, Reed Hastings is leaving Facebook’s board, and Microsoft reveals some Outlook accounts were compromised.

A large letter “G” from the Google logo on display at a game developer conference.
Google’s “Sensorvault” database is used to help law enforcement agencies track suspected criminals.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

Law enforcement agencies are using Google’s location history feature to track down crime suspects. An investigation by the New York Times revealed that law enforcement agencies are increasingly issuing “geofence” warrants to tap into Google’s massive “Sensorvault” database of their users’ locations. The increasingly frequent warrants will ask for information about all the devices Google tracks in a specific area and time period. According to one Google employee cited in the article, in a single week the company received as many as 180 requests for information. As the New York Times writes, “Technology companies have for years responded to court orders for specific users’ information,” but “[t]he new warrants go further, suggesting possible suspects and witnesses in the absence of other clues.”
[Jennifer Valentino DeVries / The New York Times]

[Want to get the Recode Daily in your inbox? Subscribe here.]

Amazon is reportedly considering offering a free music-streaming service as soon as next week. According to reporting from Billboard, the company is planning on introducing an ad-supported music service in direct competition with Spotify and Apple Music. Amazon is reportedly offering to pay record labels out of pocket to license music, flexing the company’s power “as a distributor that can afford to discount music as a loss-leader to support its core retail business.” Currently, Amazon has a paid ad-free music service for $9.99 a month — it doesn’t disclose how many subscribers it has for that service. Spotify, meanwhile, has about 96 million paid subscribers and Apple has 56 million.
[Hannah Karp / Billboard]

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings will not be re-nominated to Facebook’s board of directors. On Friday, Facebook announced it will not be re-nominating Hastings for election at the company’s next annual stockholders meetings. Another board member, Erskine Bowles, the president emeritus of the University of North Carolina, will also be departing. Instead, Facebook will nominate Peggy Alford, PayPal senior vice president of core markets. Alford will be the first black woman on Facebook’s board. According to Andrew Ross Sorkin, Hastings’s departure has been “talked about for some time” because of potential “conflict as Facebook moves more into video services.” Hastings has served on Facebook’s board since 2011.
[Salvador Rodriguez / CNBC]

Microsoft disclosed that for months hackers had access to some users’ Outlook accounts. According to the company, hackers compromised a support agent’s credentials, allowing them unauthorized access to web mail servers. The company has not yet disclosed how many accounts have been affected. Hackers were able to view email addresses, folder names, and email subject lines of a “limited number of accounts” between January 1 and March 28, 2019. “We addressed this scheme, which affected a limited subset of consumer accounts, by disabling the compromised credentials and blocking the perpetrators’ access,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. Microsoft faced another security breach when, weeks ago, a former security researcher pleaded guilty to hacking into Microsoft and Nintendo servers.
[Tom Warren / The Verge]

Top Stories from Recode

Nancy Pelosi says Trump’s tweets “cheapened the presidency” — and the media encourages him. Pelosi spoke with Kara Swisher about Trump and other topics, such as regulating technology, on the Recode Decode podcast.
[Kara Swisher]

If Congress cancels federal funding for PBS, rural areas will be hurt the most, says CEO Paula Kerger. All 335 PBS stations use federal funding, but the ones that depend on it are largely in Trump country, Kerger said on the Recode Decode podcast.
[Kara Swisher]

This is Cool

Bon voyage to the world’s largest airplane.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.