Numerous electronic devices are collecting data about us continuously. I have moved around several times over the last 4 or 5 years. I have noticed that Google always quickly figures out my new “home.” Google among other things tells me how many minutes it will take me to get back to my new “home.”
Google is just one of many examples of data continuously being collected about us. Some examples are not as obvious as Google, Facebook, Smart Phones, and Security Cameras. Some are surprising. Really, we cannot feel confident that anything we do is truly private.
When we install many smart phone apps, we give the app permission to use the camera and microphone on the phone. Some modern appliances like TVs have hidden cameras and microphones, and if you read the fine print, you may consent to having your activities in your home recorded.
One large company hired new employees who brought trade secrets with them from their previous employer on a USB Drive. They were careful to not place the trade secrets on obvious data depositories such as “computers,” hard drives, and cloud services. They successfully kept the paper printouts concealed, but they made a surprising mistake despite their technological savvy.
Some modern copy machines apparently retain a digital copy of all the documents copied by the machine. Of course, digital memory is so cheap and has such huge capacity that this is feasible. The lawyers for the victimized company got an order seizing the copy machines and proved that the trade secrets had been copied on the machines thus proving that the trade secrets had been stolen.
I would say the lawyers who got the copy machines seized were unusually diligent. This probably is not going to happen in the routine case. However, this and things like this will increasingly happen in large cases both civil and criminal. The lesson to be learned first is to be honest. That is the best policy (Although it doesn’t always work, because sometimes of course dishonest people prevail over honest people). Second, don’t assume anything you do is private. It may be recorded one way or another.
This means if you are going to do something wrong maybe you just shouldn’t do it. It is difficult enough for an honest and law abiding person to defend himself when subjected to false accusations. In today’s world, don’t count on successfully defending yourself if you have done something wrong.
In a well-known recent case of corruption involving lawyers and judges in South Texas, the feds reportedly had over 30,000 recorded phone calls that they considered “evidence” in the case. It is possible now especially for the feds to gather massive amounts of evidence.
Don’t assume phone calls are private. This concern is not just applicable to the feds. The other parties to the phone calls at least in Texas may lawfully record the calls so long as a proper disclosed party to the calls. You should assume that every phone call may be recorded not only by the feds but by the other proper disclosed parties to the calls. The same applies to meetings in offices and other places. Many offices not just governmental offices also private officers now have recording systems.
This week a police officer in Fort Worth was video recorded spraying passing motorcyclists with pepper spray. The motorcyclists were not doing anything wrong. There seemed to be no sane explanation for this bizarre behavior by the officer. He got caught. You really cannot safely do stupid, unlawful, or dishonest things any more. You should try not to if not out of morality out of self-preservation.
Electronic Evidence: Surprises & Practicalities