Look before you incriminate

13Oct08

My business law book just taught me a valuable lesson about search and seizure. A man was sentenced to 15 years in prison on child pornography charges due to incriminating evidence found on his hard drive during a border search. A computer serving as a witness to a criminal charge isn’t new, but it’s certainly worth contemplating.

Cut to today, when I encounter an article about Facebook photos serving as evidence in a rape case. The defense lawyer in the case referenced a picture of the purported victim at a fancy dinner party post-purported rape, smiling and obviously not suffering from purported PTSD.

Exhibit A: THE INTERNET.

Talk about probable cause.

Talk about probable cause.

In this age of self-awareness and self-promotion, the Internet is serving as a veritable diary full of juicy, incriminating secrets ripe for the picking. Gone are the days when prosecuters need warrants or probable cause to pry evidence out of the steely grasp of wrong-doers. Here they are, just sitting out in the open inter-webs just waiting to be picked up, dusted off, and plopped in front of a judge.

It’s enough to make a blogger think twice, eh? When blogger Penelope Trunk was told by her divorce lawyer to quit incriminating herself with her blog or he would no longer represent her, she blithely stipulated that:

It’s how I run my life, and I don’t know how else to do a life.

It’s how we live, it’s why we work, it’s where we play. Maybe it shouldn’t be questioned should we be careful, but why should we? Living in fear is tantamount to not living at all. Maybe we can take a leaf from Penelope’s feisty playbook and keep fighting for our rights to express where we please.

But a mental firewall or two could certainly be useful.

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One Response to “Look before you incriminate”

  1. 1 Kristin R

    I think ultimately people need to decide what level of disclosure they are comfortable with, and then be willing to accept the consequences. And clearly, sharing info on the internet can alter the course of one’s life. I’m sure you’ve heard of Michael Hanscom, who lost his job after posting a photo of Apple computers being unloaded on the Microsoft campus. I’m not sure that Penelope always makes the best decisions, but I certainly admire her chutzpah. (And miss her blog posts – she’s been updating a lot less frequently lately.)


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