Writer Investigated for Suspicious Online Searches Utilizes New Storytelling ‘Medium’

By Devon Glenn 

google transparency, online privacy, Internet surveillanceMichele Catalano said she was at work when she received a call from her husband that “six agents from the joint terrorism task force” had pulled up outside their home to interrogate the family after receiving a tip that someone had been searching for backpacks and pressure cooker bombs online.

Her story went viral after she posted it on Medium earlier today, but the blog post raised more questions than it answered.

Did the FBI really appear at her doorstep? Who was monitoring her browser history and why?  Is the government monitoring our online activity so closely that any one of us can be investigated in our homes for no reason?

Faced with criticism and doubt from the Twittersphere, Catalano, a writer for Death and Taxes, defended her version of events and told the press via Twitter that she would not be giving interviews.

TechCrunch later reported that it was actually Suffolk County Police detectives (not the FBI) who were following up on a tip from “a Bay Shore based computer company” (not Google) that a “recently released employee,” who was either Catalano or her husband, had been conducting suspicious searches on a work computer.

In her blog post, Catalano explained that she had been looking for pressure cookers to cook quinoa, her husband had been looking for a backpack, and that her “news junkie of a twenty-year-old son” had likely followed up on a news story related to the Boston bomber or something along those lines.

And these keywords must have raised enough red flags for an employer to alert the authorities.

In a statement, the Suffolk County PD said that the incident “was determined to be non-criminal in nature.”

Catalano later tweeted to her followers, “Well, if anything, I got a bunch of quinoa recipes sent to me today.”

And the rest of us got a reminder to watch what we search for at work.