Your Google Searches as Evidence?

Prosecutors claim a man on trial in connection with the killing of his wife did a Google search for the words: “neck snap break” and “hold” before she was killed. Apparently the case doesn’t hinge only on the defendant’s search history, and the data was obtained from the digital breadcrumbs left on his own computer, not from Google’s own database of search activity. But it does bring into focus the ease at which one’s online intellectual activities (even those made in preparation for a crime) can be tracked.

UPDATE: See the Slashot discussion, which includes a debate as to whether police should be able to search through your search history for “questionable” searches before you’ve been arrested for a crime.

A key issue will be whether Google would require a subpoena or search warrant before making such information available to law enforcement. According to their updated privacy policy, Google will share personal information with third parties if they “have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, …or (d) protect against imminent harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.” Their standard, it seems, is having “good faith belief” – not necessarily a subpoena.

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