Blog Post

Using Google history to prosecute crimes


Forbes is reporting this week how investigators used a Wisconsin's mans browser search history as evidence in his murder conviction. As with all-things Internet, I am easily fascinated (see also a blog post on this one here). But here I think there are, yet again, real reminders of how REAL the Internet is. Indulge me.

For those who have been around since there was no Internet, and yes we need to be saying that now that we are in the Twitter / Facebook age, there is a propensity to think:

There is real life and then the Internet

But with each passing year, the lines between a virtual, Internet-based reality and real life are blurred just a little bit more. We see this in the story presented by Forbes about this murder investigation. What is perhaps the most interesting is that this criminal was aware that his Google searches on the various methods of murder were a potential exposure for him. So he tried to delete and re-delete his browsing history. He was ultimately unsuccessful.

This brings the debate about Internet privacy rights front-and-center

And US-law is woefully behind reality in this domain, in my humble opinion. For now, people need to start recognizing that their browsing and searching behaviors are simply not private, not by a long shot. Visiting Google should probably better be thought of as a visit to the public library. Sure, you will find the information for free, but now there is a fairly permanent record that you checked that virtual book out.

And who objects to using public library records to convict people of crimes?

Very few (I think. Expecting angry comments on that one :-). But back on my main point. This information just fits. I mean, seriously, there are people selling their World of Warcraft (WOW) profiles for significant money. That's not even new news. And if you think this is all too intrusive, and you find yourself wishing for the simpler days before the Internet, brace yourself. Last night, Marketplace was reporting that LG is working on an Internet-enable refrigerator that will text you when you are running low on milk.

Reputation management is a no-brainer

I'm extremely biased because I work in this industry, but as I'm confronted by these data points about the increasing role of the Internet in our lives I'm dumbfounded by companies that have not yet even started some form of strategy for their online presence. Weather they simply track social media mentions of their company or go all-out and actually hire someone to run their Twitter, Facebook and Google Local accounts, it seems that the data is overwhelmingly showing us that this online stuff is here to stay. Fairly soon;

Not having a Facebook and Twitter account for a business will be like not having a phone number