This quick read from the New York Times is a great reminder that your seemingly private online information isn’t all that private. While law enforcement can obtain a search warrant for even your home or business with probable cause [meaning there’s reason to suspect there’s evidence related to a crime], it’s apparently not all that difficult for it to subpoena [different from a search warrant] vast amounts of your online information, like email, social network account information and other online records.
I’m NOT a lawyer, but subpoenas and search warrants both require contact with a judge/judicial authority, to my understanding. But given continued evidence at how these tools are being used by law enforcement in some recent high-profile cases, it seems to me that even information like your search history could be easily obtained and used against you in court.
Just imagine the line of questioning as the D.A. reads out your list of search terms related to WikiLeaks, Al Qaeda and terrorism. Ever go back and look at your search history? If you’re a heavy computer user, out of context, your search history probably makes you sound crazy, dangerous or both. I tend to look up any term or concept I hear about in the news, just to see the other information available on the topic. This is the kind of information — our stream-of-thought — that has been previously unavailable to law enforcement. And in a culture that breeds fear, I don’t want to have to answer for my search terms to a jury. Do you?