As Brian Walshe’s Google searches show: How you can never REALLY clear your history

As Brian Walshe’s grisly Google searches show: How you can never REALLY delete your internet history, as “keyword warrants” can force the tech giant to identify users searching for incriminating search terms

  • Walshe’s research into decomposition now forms the basis of a murder trial
  • The tech giant keeps Google searches even when users delete their history
  • Police can request warrants for disclosure of Google data in criminal investigations
  • Keyword search warrants allow police to locate even unknown suspects

Brian Walshe’s grisly Google search history following the disappearance of his wife Ana is now the basis of a murder trial – although her body has not been found.

The data cache, including searches for “how long before you can inherit,” has been saved by the Silicon Valley giant — as it has with all users, even if they believe they’ve wiped all traces of their personal devices.

Walshe, 47, who is accused of murdering Ana in the basement of her home in Cohasset, Massachusetts, used his son’s iPad to search for “10 ways to dismember a body” and “Does baking soda make a body smell good?” search.

Not only does Google store this information, but law enforcement agencies can force tech companies to hand over the data with warrants.

This goes even a step further with controversial “keyword searches,” where authorities can ask Google to find users who have performed incriminating searches.

Brian Walshe this morning pleaded not guilty to beating his wife Ana to death when prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence against him, including Google searches of divorce, murder, dismemberment and decomposing bodies

Brian Walshe this morning pleaded not guilty to beating his wife Ana to death when prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence against him, including Google searches of divorce, murder, dismemberment and decomposing bodies

Google has come under pressure from internet privacy activists, and in 2020 the tech giant’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced an auto-delete feature to delete stored search and location data after 18 months.

Previously, the information was stored by the company indefinitely.

The feature was applied to all new Google accounts by default – but it had to be activated by existing users.

Despite these safeguards, law enforcement can force tech giants like Google to unblock searches — and they can even go a step further with “keyword commands,” which alert authorities when specific search terms are used.

The practice was exposed in the arson case of Michael Williams — an associate of convicted sex offender R. Kelly — who set fire to an accuser’s car in Florida in July 2020.

Investigators sent a keyword command to Google requesting data on “users who searched the apartment’s address just prior to the arson.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced an auto-delete feature in 2020 to delete saved search and location data after 18 months. The feature was applied to all new Google accounts by default - but it had to be enabled by existing users.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced an auto-delete feature in 2020 to delete saved search and location data after 18 months. The feature was applied to all new Google accounts by default – but it had to be enabled by existing users.

Google provided IP addresses – a unique identifier used by internet service providers – of people searching for victims’ home addresses.

The data was tied to a phone used by Williams, allowing police to pinpoint his device to a location near the scene of the arson during the crime.

Williams was sentenced to eight years in prison for attacking an SUV outside the home of one of the singer’s accusers.

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Emma Colton

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