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Can the police get your browsing history?

On Behalf of | Jun 18, 2024 | Internet Privacy- Individual Rights |

These days, your browser history can reveal a lot about who you are and what you do – through the searches you make, the websites you visit, the purchases you’ve made and more.

For law enforcement, this kind of information can be a virtual gold mine – and they often use the information they find to investigate crimes and build their cases. Most people do not realize exactly how easily the police can obtain their online browsing histories. Here’s what you need to know:

Destroying your electronics won’t destroy the browser data

A lot of people misunderstand how electronic data is stored. They think that, if they destroy their computers, tablets or phones, all of their browsing history will also be destroyed.

In reality, all of that data can be obtained through Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like Spectrum or Comcast, or through tech companies that supply online browsers, such as Google, Microsoft or Apple.

If you’ve been arrested, all it takes is a subpoena

If you’re charged with a crime, the police don’t even need an actual warrant to get the data. Generally speaking, while they might eventually move to get a warrant, most of the time a user’s search records and other data can be obtained from tech companies with nothing more than a subpoena. In fact, Google answers so many that it even has an online Law Enforcement Request System (LERS).

Searching in “private” mode won’t protect you

Most browsers have some form of “private” mode – but it isn’t as private as you think. The privacy only exists within the confines of your device, so your search history won’t be visible to anybody else who uses it – and you won’t pick up any “cookies” from websites you visit. It doesn’t stop your ISP from noting where you made a connection or when you were online, nor does it stop the websites you visit from knowing you were there.

If you’ve been charged with a crime and you’re concerned about your browsing history, it’s always best to seek legal guidance that’s tailored to your specific worries.