Google Knows What?

If you watch much Court TV, you know that it’s not uncommon anymore for police to seize an accused’s computer and use information obtained from the hard drive against the accused. But the hard drive is not the only repository of information concerning the computer user’s activities. I just read this excerpt written by Greg Beck in the Consumer Law & Policy Blog:

Although there is no indication in the court’s opinion about how prosecutors in this case obtained the search data, Google has acknowledged that it can trace searches back to a particular computer or, in some cases, to a particular user. What exactly does Google know about you? Its privacy policy states that it automatically records information that your browser sends whenever you visit a website. This can include your search terms, IP address, date and time of your search request, and, if you have cookies enabled, possibly your personal identity. Google also acknowledges that it can track which links you click from its search results. In short, Google may have several years’ worth of your search activity stored in its databases, and it may be able to connect much or all of this activity back to you.

Now, I consider myself the epitome of the law-abiding citizen. But this information makes me go “Hmmmmm?” Even if I do some searches on my computer that I wouldn’t want at least certain other people to know about, I suppose I probably don’t have anything to worry about as long as I don’t become a criminal defendant.

Hmmmmm. I wonder if I could ever get information from Google via subpoena? What if I represented a consumer who allegedly bought a flood-damaged vehicle from a dealership. I subpoena all searches conducted by the dealership’s computers through the Google search engine. I suspect Google would fight the subpoena tooth and nail, but who knows? What if the results revealed that someone from the dealership did a search like: “how to avoid a salvage title?” Hmmmmm.