ST. PAUL, Minn. (March 21, 2024) – Bills introduced in the Minnesota House and Senate would ban reverse keyword and reverse location searches. Passage of the legislation would not only protect privacy in Minnesota; it would also hinder the growth of the federal surveillance state.

Rep. Sandra Feist and Rep. Brion Curran introduced House Bill 3513 (HF3513) on Feb. 12. Sen. Erin Maye Quade and Sen. Eric Lucero introduced a companion, Senate Bill 4040 (SF4040), on Feb. 22. The legislation would prohibit state and local government agencies, including police, from seeking or obtaining any data obtained through a reverse-location or reverse-keyword search. It would also ban state courts from issuing a reverse-keyword court order or a reverse-location court order except in the event of a sudden natural disaster.

Any information obtained in violation of the law would be inadmissible in any criminal, civil, administrative, or other proceeding.

A reverse keyword search involves obtaining information identifying any unnamed persons, by name or other unique identifier, who electronically searched for a particular word, phrase, or website or who visited a particular website.

A reverse location search involves obtaining the location of unspecified electronic devices or their unnamed users or owners, whose scope extends to an unknown number of electronic devices present in a given geographic area at a given time, whether such location is measured via global positioning system coordinates, cell tower connectivity, Wi-Fi positioning, or any other form of location detection.

The ban on obtaining reverse location information would prohibit a process called “geofencing.” This technique allows police to search broad geographical areas and identify every electronic device in the area. They can then take that data and determine the identity of individuals near a given place at a given time. In practice, police use Google location data to engage in massive fishing expeditions and subject hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people to police location tracking.

According to the New York Times, federal agents first utilized the practice in 2016. According to the report, broadly construed geofencing warrants help police pinpoint possible suspects and witnesses in the absence of other clues. Google employees said the company often responds to a single warrant with location information on dozens or hundreds of devices.


The feds can share and tap into vast amounts of information gathered at the state and local level through fusion centers and a system known as the “information sharing environment” or ISE. In other words, stingrays create the potential for the federal government to track the movement of millions of Americans with no warrant, no probable cause, and without the people even knowing it.

Fusion centers were sold as a tool to combat terrorism, but that is not how they are being used. The ACLU pointed to a bipartisan congressional report to demonstrate the true nature of government fusion centers: “They haven’t contributed anything meaningful to counterterrorism efforts. Instead, they have largely served as police surveillance and information sharing nodes for law enforcement efforts targeting the frequent subjects of police attention: Black and brown people, immigrants, dissidents, and the poor.”

Fusion centers operate within the broader ISE. According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant. Known ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence which oversees 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. ISE utilizes these partnerships to collect and share data on the millions of unwitting people they track.

Limiting information collected by state and local law enforcement agencies limits the amount of information that can flow into federal databases through fusion centers and the ISE.


SF4040 was referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. HF3513 was referred to the House Judiciary, Finance and Civil Law Committee. The bills must get a hearing in their respective committees and pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

Mike Maharrey

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