Things You Can Get in Trouble for Googling
Believe it or not, your internet searches are never private. Even if you turn on private browsing settings and go the distance to make yourself “incognito” online, law enforcement authorities can still access your search history regardless. No matter how hard you try to fight it, you almost always leave a “digital footprint” online. Clearing your search history, cookies, and cache is not enough.
With this in mind, it’s important to be aware of the red flags that could land you in jail. In limited circumstances, your Google searches can get you in trouble, especially if you’re already on police officers’ watch lists.
On that note, your internet searches alone typically will not get you in trouble with the police. It is perfectly legal to search anything online in most cases, but if those searches are linked to a crime or potential crime, you could get arrested. From there, you could get taken into custody and interrogated at best. At worst, however, you could walk away with criminal charges.
For these reasons, searching the following words or phrases may get you in trouble with the police:
Child pornography: Searching and/or viewing content of minors engaged in sexual activities is a sex crime. Even searching “child pornography” alone could put you on police radars. For background, minors are anyone under 18 years old, so looking at pictures or videos of them partaking in sexual activity is enough to raise serious suspicions. Even if you clear your browsing data, it won’t be enough. As mentioned before, your digital footprint can be used against you.
Terrorism-related terms: Terrorism is an ongoing threat and priority in the United States. As such, Googling anything that could raise suspicions of terrorism will be handled accordingly. For instance, searches such as, “how to make a homemade bomb” and “best spots to hide a bomb” could put you on the watch list. Again, it is not illegal to look up information about terrorism on the internet, but if law enforcement suspects your web searches are linked to something bigger and more serious, the police may end up at your door.
Illegal downloads: Now more than ever, illegal downloads are becoming extremely common. Many people resort to illegal streaming platforms to access those must-see films that haven’t hit the store shelves or listen to their favorite songs for free. However, illegally downloading content from the internet and/or sharing it with others is often a copyright violation, which may be punishable by jail time and fines.
Dark web searches: The dark web is full of unknowns. It is notorious for illegal activities, such as white-collar crimes, child pornography, how-to guides for committing terrorism, and hiring hitmen to carry out crimes. As a result, the police are vigilant for identifying and observing dark web users. Be careful. Simply browsing the dark web out of curiosity could turn into evidence of a crime, so it’s best to stay out of the dark web altogether.
Does Google Report Illegal Searches?
Google is not the police. In most cases, Google will not report suspicious searches unless circumstances call for it. Child pornography is a prime example. While Google isn’t required to actively monitor illegal content, it may, however, report crimes such as child pornography. Not to mention, law enforcement authorities can always request a person’s search data.
If you are facing charges for internet crimes, don’t panic. When you give us a call at (707) 418-5352, our criminal defense attorney can walk you through your legal options and aggressively defend your freedom moving forward. Get started today!