Update: Law enforcement admitted that they had been sent to the home, but they were alerted by the husband's former employer, because reportedly he (or someone else) was using a work computer to do searches on "pressure cooker BOMBS." That's quite different from "pressure cooker." Michele updated her blog post to confirm that she was later told they were alerted because of work searches, but does not clarify what the search terms were. Was it "pressure cooker" or "pressure cooker bombs"?!
Be careful what you Google! One family reportedly got a visit from police after a confluence of strange Google searches got them branded as terrorists. The family, who live in Long Island, New York, and are as far from terrorists as you and me, say they suddenly got a visit from six men in black, who rolled up to their house and demanded a search. What brought this supposed terrorism task group to this suburban family? Google searches that any one of us could have made! Check it out.
In case you were still under the illusion that your Internet searches aren't being monitored, think again!!
Michele Catalano wrote in her blog about the unannounced visit of six lawmen who showed up on their lawn while her husband was home. Michele writes:
Little did we know our seemingly innocent, if curious to a fault, Googling of certain things was creating a perfect storm of terrorism profiling. Because somewhere out there, someone was watching. Someone whose job it is to piece together the things people do on the internet raised the red flag when they saw our search history.
What was going into Google? The search terms "pressure cooker" and "backpack" -- two of the items associated with the Boston Marathon bombers, who used backpacks to conceal their pressure cooker-bombs.
But Michele was just researching "pressure cooker" so she could make quinoa, and her husband was looking into buying a backpack. Top it all off with a teen son who apparently clicked on a news link about how bomb-making instructions are easily available online and pictures that the family posted on Facebook of explosives for their July 4th fireworks -- and wahlah! Terrorism Task Alert Force pegged them as criminals.
Until they showed up and found nothing in the home -- and Michele's husband mentioned "quinoa." "What the hell is quinoa?" one agent supposedly asked.
The agents peppered Michele's husband with questions, including, "Do you have any bombs?" They searched the house (their son was sleeping in his bedroom at the time) and the backyard. After apparently realizing they weren't dealing with terrorists, they left.
Scarily, at first everyone denied the family had been searched, which led people to accuse Michele of making the whole thing up. But later county police reportedly confirmed they had sent detectives to the scene of the non-crime.
I've written about this sort of thing in the past. As part of my job, I routinely Google the weirdest, most crazy shit. The other day, while trying to find a story about Alanna Gallagher, the little girl murdered and left under a tarp in the street, I Googled, "Little girl naked tied up." You don't want to know what links that suggested!
I'm truly surprised no one has banged on my door yet. Hopefully this post will get me out of any future trouble!
I've used search engines like DuckDuckGo that don't monitor your searches, but they are slow and don't have nearly the same quality of results that Google does.
How is this happening? Why are we all allowing it? And don't think it couldn't happen to you. According to Michele, the agents said they make 100 searches like this a week!
I find the whole thing disconcerting. You hope that cops will realize it's just a Google search when nothing criminal pops up in your house, but who knows? They could say you hadn't acted on your criminal intent yet!
Do you worry about this kind of thing? Do you feel our privacy is being invaded or this is necessary prudence?
Image via Victor1558/Flickr