Appeals Court Questions Government on Reliability of Google Scanning Algorithm

November 18, 2019

This week a federal appellate judge pressed the government about the reliability of a Google scanning algorithm that provided the basis for the warrantless search of a private email. EPIC raised concerns about the scanning technique in an amicus brief for the appeals court. In United States v. Wilson, EPIC argued that "because neither Google nor the Government explained how the image matching technique actually works or presented evidence establishing accuracy and reliability, the Government's search was unreasonable." Judge Watford told the government attorney that he "would like to hear your defense of the evidentiary record" because what we have "is this declaration from the Google person," and "I would need far more explanation of how reliable the hash matching technology is before I could validate this search." EPIC filed an amicus brief in a similar case in United States v. Miller. EPIC routinely submits amicus briefs on the privacy implications of new investigative techniques. EPIC has also long promoted algorithmic transparency to ensure accountability for AI-based decision making.

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