Google gave FBI location data for 5K-plus devices for Jan. 6 investigation

Roughly 900 people have so far been charged with offenses in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 riot.

Published: December 1, 2022 7:35am

Updated: December 1, 2022 8:07am

The FBI’s investigation into the Jan. 6 riot reportedly is the biggest in agency history and its biggest for accessing cell phone data through so-called geofence warrants.

A filing in the case of Jan. 6 defendant David Rhine shows that Google initially identified 5,723 cellular devices as being in or near the Capitol, in Washington, D.C., during the riot, according to

However, just 900 people have so far been charged with offenses in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021 riot.

The warrants are issued by a court to allow law enforcement to search a database to find active mobile devices within a particular area.

The Big Tech firm is served about 10,000 geofence warrants in the U.S. each year, Wired also reports.

The geofence warrants served on Google shortly after the riot remained sealed. However, Rhine's lawyers recently filed a motion to suppress the geofence evidence, as first reported by journalist Marcy Wheeler on her blog, Emptywheel

Google is defending its handling of geofence warrants.

"We have a rigorous process …. that is designed to protect the privacy of our users while supporting the important work of law enforcement," the company told Wired. "When Google receives legal demands, we examine them closely for legal validity and constitutional concerns, including over-breadth, consistent with developing case law. 

"If a request asks for too much information, we work to narrow it. We routinely push back on over-broad demands, including over-broad geofence demands, and in some cases, we object to producing any information at all."

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