If you’re above the age of 14 then you already know: internet search histories are nothing but trouble. Having an easily accessible backlog of everything we’ve ever typed into a browser bar amounts to nothing short of a digital paper trail linking back to our most private, shameful, and at times nefarious online queries. If you’ve seen a person’s search history, you’ve seen their soul.
36-year-old Sam Kul is due to be sentenced next week after airport customs officers searched through his phone and found a handful of incriminating Google searches that put the holiday-maker in hot water.
“Does customs check every bag in Australia?” was one. “Can money be seen on airport scanners?” was another, as was “Bringing a million dollars through airport." At one point, Kul even Googled “How to browse privately on Samsung?" All of which piqued the attention of authorities when he flew back into Australia after a four-month stint in Europe in April 2017, according to NewsCorp.
Upon further investigation, those authorities discovered almost five kilos of cocaine, with an estimated value of $20,000 AUD ($13,544.40 USD), sewn into Kul’s carry-on luggage. Kul—a former airport security guard himself—pleaded not guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, but was ultimately convicted by a jury following a County Court trial. He could now face life in prison as a result of the charges, although prosecutors conceded his offending doesn’t warrant such a maximum sentence as that.
While an uncleared search history might seem like a rookie blunder for just about anyone who’s ever used the internet, prosecutor Aaron Shwartz suggested that Kul was aware authorities might become privy to his Google search terms, and that he worded those search terms in such a way as to mislead authorities. This included the claim that he was bringing money into the country rather than drugs, according to Shwartz.
“It was planned, it was built upon deception,” he said. “He knew what he was doing.”
Kul insisted at trial that he didn’t know he was carrying drugs.