The Petraeus Affair: There’S No Such Thing As “Online Privacy”

A “confidential” report from our PA Family Lawyers:

Time and time again we are reminded that “online privacy” really is an oxymoron. Those on the market for job know (or should know) that employers regularly monitor applicants’ internet presence for red flags. But did you know that according to a recent study a third of employers have turned applicants down because they saw a picture of the person with a glass of alcohol in their hand, even though they’re adults and just drinking a glass of wine?

But threats to your “online privacy” extend well beyond Facebook and potential employers. Every email you send could potentially be compromised and read by a third-party. Experts say that even if you use the best encryption technology, employ complex passwords, and install the latest antivirus software you may still be at risk. This is because but when information is emailed, there’s no guarantee the recipient will be quite so meticulous. Just ask General David Petraeus.

The (now former) head of the Central Intelligence Agency resigned Friday following exposure of an extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell. The affair came to light during an FBI investigation of Broadwell’s email accounts as a result of a harassment complaint another federal employee lodged against her. Although Petraeus’s own email account was never searched, the emails between Patreus and Broadwell were nevertheless uncovered on Broadwell’s computer.

Though most people will never have their email accounts scrutinized by federal investigators, the Petraeus affair illustrates how easily a message intended as a private communication can be exposed to the world. Emails end up in the wrong hands every day. By a slip of the wrist or an unintended use of the “forward” button, your confidential communication could end up in a stranger’s inbox. Or worse, in your ex-husband’s inbox!

Whether it’s your personal or business email account, complete confidentiality is an illusion. Some 44% of large U.S. companies employ someone specifically to monitor the firm’s outgoing email. Experts warn that deleting emails and instant messages is not enough. The messages remain on the computer’s hard drive and could even find their way into the courtroom if introduced as evidence in a court case involving another employee. The way it works in most companies is that only the employer has the ability to delete cached information on the company’s computer system. This means, even if you delete it, you can never completely destroy it.

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