The Suffolk County Police Department finally put an end to all rumors and speculations, saying that ex-employer of the Long Island-based writer's husband had tipped off the Police, not Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) searches. Yesterday, music writer Michele Catalano posted an account on Medium that six Joint Terrorism Task Force agents visited her place several weeks ago, inquiring about why they did a Google search for "pressure cooker and "backpack."
Serious privacy concerns
It raised serious privacy concerns as media outlets believed that Catalano might have been a target of National Securities Agency monitoring or Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) might have provided the government with search history of everybody who searches for suspicious terms. Later, Michele Catalano said that the "storm of terrorism profiling" would have been created by her husband's web searches for "backpacks," her searches for "pressure cookers" and her son's curiosity to know everything about Boston Bombings.
She later published a clarification on Tumblr that she was unaware that the searches by her husband at his old job were also involved. So, she believed that the questioning was done solely on the basis of web searches at her home.
Suffolk County Police clears the air
When Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch contacted the Suffolk County Police Department, they sent her a press release clarifying the issue. Police said that a Bay Shore based computer firm tipped the Suffolk County Criminal Intelligence detectives about the suspicious Internet searches done by a recently fired employee. The searches were conducted from this ex-employee's workplace computer.
The Suffolk County Police interviewed the company representatives before visiting the ex-employee's home to inquire about the suspicious searches. TechCrunch says that either Michele Catalano or her husband did these searches on a workplace computer. That employer was paying attention and called the police.
TechCrunch identified the Bay Shore based computer company as Speco Technologies and Michele Catalano's husband as Todd Pinnell. Mr. Pinnell was a product manager at Speco until April 30, 2013. It's contrary to common belief that work computers are usually not tracked.
Yes, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and NSA both track the Internet activity of users, but it's now clear that the search engine giant played no role in this incident. Google complies with law enforcement, providing user information whenever a government authority issues a search warrant.