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I wonder what my online browsing history signifies to the government agencies that collect copious amounts of personal data on us. I’m a mild-mannered writer and an ordained minister, but I often browse for information about weapons, spying devices and military information. Am I on a list somewhere – a list I’d rather not be part of? I’ll probably never know.

The truth is that a writer of mysteries and crime novels needs to do her research if she wants her work to appear credible. For my Angelina Bonaparte private investigator series, I’ve Googled “guns suitable for women,” “reverse peephole viewers” (scary, isn’t it, that someone can use your peephole to see inside?), “U.S. military special forces,” “Interpol art theft,” “Bosnian War,” “offshore banking,” and other assorted topics that seem rather … well, nefarious.

But I also frequently search for clothing and related topics, because Angie is, unlike her creator, something of a fashionista. I look for Italian phrases that the Bonaparte family might use, as well as Polish phrases that Angie’s homicide detective boyfriend, Ted Wukowski, would say.

Even alcohol and wine are in my search history, despite the fact that those who know me know that I’m a proud connoisseur of cheap wine and I rarely drink liquor.

None of this makes me a terrorist, or a gun-toting mama, or a clothes horse, or a drinker. It makes me a writer, who uses the Internet to do everyday research. Heaven help me if the NSA ever takes a look at my search history!

Click here to read Karoline Barrett’s guest post on The Editing Pen, “Don’t Judge My Search History.”