Hint: If You Commit A Crime, Do Not Google Every Aspect Of It Afterwards

from the isn't-this-obvious? dept

Techdirt has reported on a number people accused of murder googling for things like "neck snap break" or "how to commit murder" beforehand, and leaving these suggestive details on their computers. Those were some years back, and since then there has been plenty of attention given to the idea that your search histories provide a great deal of information about what you were thinking - and possibly even what you were thinking about doing.

So you would expect people by now would have learned to be a little more cautious for example, by carrying out searches anonymously at different Internet cafes. But the story of Vincent Tabak, whose case is currently going through UK courts, suggests that message still hasn't got across. The court has been hearing about his intensive use of the Internet to research a range of topics after killing a woman called Joanna Yeates (he admits manslaughter, but denies murder):
The 33-year-old defendant ... looked up satellite imagery of the site where he dumped Yeates's body. He researched the Wikipedia page for murder and maximum sentence for manslaughter, web records from work and personal laptops showed.

While regularly checking the Avon and Somerset police website and local news site www.thisisbristol.co.uk, the Dutch engineer was also checking decomposition rates.

Days after killing Yeates at her Clifton flat on 17 December, Tabak was watching a timelapse video of a body decomposing, Bristol crown court heard.
That's a reminder of just how much detailed information about past Internet activity can be gleaned from computers, and how incriminating that might be in certain circumstances. On the other hand, perhaps we should be grateful that people committing crimes are still making it so easy to convict them on the basis of their tell-tale online activity.

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Filed Under: crime, evidence, searches

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  1. icon
    Cody Jackson (profile), 20 Oct 2011 @ 4:36pm


    For the truly paranoid (or just serious privacy-minded), simply use a LiveCD version of an OS and boot from that. Everything is kept in RAM so once you exit the computer, nothing is left behind. As long as you aren't logging into search engines, you are just another person on the 'net. If you really want to be safe, use TOR and encryption during your surfing.

    I remember reading a book in the Shadowrun RPG that was a neat suggestion, for rich people. Have your computer memory (RAM, ROM, etc.) put on EPROM chips and do your work in a dark room. Replace the lights with UV lights. When someone busts down your door and turns on the lights, the UV rays automatically erase the chips and there goes any evidence of wrong-doing. :) (Impractical, but an interesting thought.)

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