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Viral story of Google searches prompting a raid from the authorities is not exactly true

Evan Dashevsky | Aug. 5, 2013
The authorities are probably not watching every Google search as they happen, but your data can still draw attention in other ways.

After interviewing the company representatives, Suffolk County Police Detectives visited the subject's home to ask about the suspicious internet searches. The incident was investigated by Suffolk County Police Department's Criminal Intelligence Detectives and was determined to be non-criminal in nature.

According to TechCrunch, the computer company in question may have been the former employer of Ms. Catalano's husband.

In response to the changing news, Catalano updated her original piece on Medium with the following clarification:

We found out through the Suffolk Police Department that the searches involved also things my husband looked up at his old job. We were not made aware of this at the time of questioning and were led to believe it was solely from searches from within our house.

I did not lie or make it up. I wrote the piece with the information that was given. What was withheld from us obviously could not be a part of a story I wrote based on what happened yesterday.

The piece I wrote was the story as we knew it with the information we were told. None of it was fabricated. If you know me, you know I would never do that.

If it was misleading, just know that my intention was the truth. And that was what I knew as the truth until about ten minutes ago. That there were other circumstances involved was something we all were unaware of.

So, it appears that while the investigation may have indeed been prompted by Internet queries of some type, they were not prompted by any of the Snowden-esque monitoring programs that have recently come to light. The vast firehouse of data allegedly being collected under Xkeyscore very likely can't be parsed in close enough to real-time to prompt an investigation like this anyway, unless (perhaps) an individual was already under scrutiny.

Before Snowden's leaks, a former FBI agent revealed how some unspecified technology could be used in the Boston Bombing investigation to collect data—after the fact. The entirety of the monitoring infrastructure is likely more akin to an all-encompassing super DVR rather than an early alert system.


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