April 14, 2016 That Peter Brewer

A Message From Heaven. Please Delete My Google Search History

I’ve often joked with close friends….

“If by some horrible chance I pass away in my sleep tonight, can one of you please delete my Google search history?”..

Now, without passing any judgement I think we’re all potentially guilty at some stage of innocently entering a Google search, that, if discovered, without the benefit of context, could see some of us very embarrassed, or even in some cases, on the FBI or ASIO Watch-List.

I for one don’t think I could never really plausibly explain to a Judge why my search history contained dubious results from entering the search terms: ‘Cheap Old Boxes’, ‘Spicy Spit Roasts Images’ or ‘Saddle Chaffing Relief’…

But I digress...

The common practice of using various privacy settings, filters and Incognito browsers to keep our Search or online browsing habits private is something that many rely on for professional, and sometimes personal reasons, that frankly are none of my business…

But in the modern day dictionary that now includes meta, beta, cache, pixels, physing attacks, cyber criminals and data-doctors, many people are incorrectly relying on an assumption that our online habits are safely hidden from all eyes, other than our own.

Couple that misconception with the myriad of devices that we use in our professional day and then privately at home after hours, along with most browsers now ‘handing off’ from Mobile to Desktop and vice-versa, our online world is much more complex, far less private, and with some lines that to many, are much more blurred than ever before. And its those changes in technology that are biting many people on the buttocks much harder than you might ever have expected several years ago..

Let me explain..

I’ve been following a recent court case from the USA with great interest.  I won’t go into deep detail on the case other than sharing some of the events which sees one Senior Business Exec who has moved from his former employer to join the employment of a fiercely rival company.

With the authority of the Courts the former Employer is now deeply, almost forensically, exploring their former Employees online behaviour, using his company provided devices, including sites visited through to exact dates and times that USB devices have been accessed, files deleted, copied and moved, even through to details of deleted text messages.

The depth of technical knowledge available to the now apparently aggrieved Employer through these forensic examinations now sees that Exec in what would be for many of us, a position where embarrassing and compromising facts are being unveiled in the witness box for the world to see, salivate on, and to share. I’m not even going to contemplate the online reputation damage that’s being done to the Execs name in SEO terms for his future reputation..

Here’s some Court reporting of the trial from the Inman Select website by Inman Reporter Andrea Brabila.

  On pornography 

Savitt: Before running the Cipher and cleanup.bat programs did you think you should talk to your attorneys?

Beardsley: Yes.

Savitt: Did you?

Beardsley: No.

Savitt: Why not?

Beardlsey: “Because i did not want to discuss the pornography issues with anybody, including my attorneys.”

Savitt: When you ran the programs did you believe you were tampering with evidence? 

Beardsley: “No, I did not believe there was anything in those computers at all related to the case.”

Beardlsey: “I had accessed via browser pornographic websites and viewed pornographic material and wanted to not have that come out. I wanted to hide that.”

Savitt: Why were you concerned? 

Beardsley: “I am ashamed of it and did not want anybody to see it.” 

Savitt: “Were you ashamed that you had used it on your Move computer?” Beardsley: “Yes.”

Savitt: What did you think people would look at you and see if they found out? 

Beardsley: [starts tearing up] “Someone who was not the person I wanted to be.” 

Savitt: Was it a lot of pornography or a little? 

Beardsley: “Probably a lot.” 

Beardsley: “Over time, it’s generally when I’m under stress, so it ebbs and flows.” 

Savitt: “Did you visit sites like playboy.com or sites with graphic sex?”

Beardsley: “Sites with graphic sex.”

Savitt: “How are you feeling right now, Mr. Beardsley?”

Singer: “Objection: relevance.”

Judge O’Donnell: “Over-ruled.”

Beardlsey: “Ashamed.”

Savitt: “Is this precisely what you were trying to avoid?”

Beardsley: “Yes.”

Now. In anyone’s terms I reckon the above Courtroom exchange would rate fairly low on the things you’d like your Partner, Kids and future employers to be reading. No matter how innocent the searches and browsing may have been.

My point?..  Its simply this. Every keystroke that you make is potentially being recorded by someone somewhere these days.  With social networks and mobile search and browsing dominating most days, the clarity around the lines of what is business, and what is private have become very blurred for many.

Our friends at Google recently shared at the Inman conference in NYC that a majority of us are now checking our Mobile devices up to a whopping 160 times per day. In fact they shared that up to 90% of life decisions are now being made via our Mobile devices.

In light of these stats and this rapidly moving world, here’s a few thoughts to ponder while you’re sitting under your desk rocking back and forth today.

  • Which of your search or browsing behaviours could come back to bite you in the future?
  • Who actually owns the devices you use each day? Computers? Smartphone? USB’s? DropBox? Email accounts, Mobile Phone?
  • Are they the property of your employer, or you?
  • Could it be subpoenaed or taken from you at any stage without notice?

If you’re an employer.

-Does your written signed company policy clearly define your expectations and have absolute clarity around ownership and acceptable use of devices?

-Do you have a written signed policy to deal with such things?

If you’re an employee.

-Do you know exactly what you can and can’t do with company owned devices and on company time?

Give it some thought.

If you think you might need some help to get some clarity you might want to seek some professional help.

I’m here to help you navigate the maze. Give me a call on +61417630962 or drop me a line to peter@thatpeterbrewer.com

 

About the Author

That Peter Brewer Peter Brewer is a speaker, educator, digital footprint strategist on a mission (some say crusade) to ensure that smart small businesses and smart business people treat the new digital world with the respect it deserves. Peter is a former real estate agent of 30 years and now speaks across Australia, New Zealand and in the USA on technology and digital media in the real estate industry. You'll find more about Peter at thatpeterbrewer.com

Comment (1)

  1. Julie Ryan

    Fabulous article Peter. Insightful and engaging (as always). It is quite comforting that you choose such a clean look for your blog as it makes it so much earier to read here in the dark as I too sit here under my desk rocking backwards & forwards…

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That Peter Brewer

Peter is one of the few specialists who can think outside his generation