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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Google as Tool in Criminal Investigations


This linked story from the Durham, N.C. News site discusses how police tracked a suspected murderers Google searches, which he apparently used to research killing his wife and how to dispose of her body. The single case itself is not terribly relevant to search engines, but is a clear indication of the importance of search to every aspect of our lives. Now it appears that anyone who owns a computer will have their Google searches monitored when they run afoul of the law.

It is not too far of a stretch to imagine that every police department, government agency and investigative body looking at anyone accused of crimes will check searches done by that person or company online as a routine part of forensic criminal investigation.

The ease with which a persons interests and actions can be tied to internet searches done at Google (or any search engine) is clear. It seems that Google could probably launch a criminal investigation arm tied to computer forensics and be profitably employed by law enforcement agencies. No doubt that bad guys who own computers will use them to research bad deeds in advance.

An addendum, since I wrote this last week ... New York Times Editorial piece suggests that Google should make users more aware of how their information is used and with whom it is shared. This case may attract further attention from the press now that the NY Times has shined a spotlight on the Google privacy policy, which allows law enformcement to access the data at Google with a warrant, yet the person being investigated has no access or control of that same information on themselves.

We have Google Base, Google Analytics, Google Talk, so... Google Forensic Investigations anyone?

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