Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Clients are cautioned not to write WRITE ANYTHING you wouldn't want anybody and everybody to read under all circumstances on mobile text communication devices or in electronic media such as e-mail or through social sites. Once something is written it takes on a life of its own.

Cell phone txt is particularly dangerous for both the sender and the receiver because these devices often fall into the wrong hands. Jealous spouses or boyfriends; nosy friends or parents; and more importantly, the police, prosecutors, and your legal opponent's attorneys can all get their hands on that data. At the scene of accidents or arrest the police are very quick to snoop through a telephone in your possession. While the legailty of such an invasion of privacy can usually be challenged, I've seen many instances where they left the subject alone initially, only to obtain a hard copy from the cell phone provider under subpoena later on. (YES! That data does reside in their servers and can be retrieved for varying periods.) Discussions of a significant social or legal consequence intended ONLY for the recipient should be made in person where no record is made and you KNOW the person you are speaking with. Often people make incriminating statements in these devices with dire consequences later on. The LAST thing the police need to find in your phone after you have been involved in a serious accident is txt messages to your friends sent moments before taking about how you are partying!

Another caution is that cellphones can be used to track your whereabouts whether you are using them or not. These tactics are OFTEN used by police, private investigators, repossession-agents and bounty-hunters. If you don't want your cell phone or PDA telling the world where you are you better pull the battery!

E-mail, Myspace, Facebook and a variety of other sites that have an e-mail or message features are also a hazard. These accounts are inavvertently left open all the time on shared computers or the computer you used may have keystroke-tracking which will provide the owner log-in information. These sites are also subject to subpoenas and/or search warrants where there are more serious inquiries afoot and indeed most have entire department devoted to this process. And don't think using some cutsie-tootsie code in your discussions will protect you eiter as these messages are ALWAYS construed in the worst possible way they can be by anyone who is interested.

In short, do not TYPE anything you would not want on a Mainstreet Billboard complete with your name and photograph.

Voice communications are somewhat safer. Civil wiretaps are virtually unheard of and while the Patriot Act has diluted the protections against eaves-dropping, actually spending hours listening and waiting for a call or setting up recording device on a particular line is so difficult and legally cumbersome the practice in everyday law enforcement is still somewhat extraordinary. However, it does happen! If law enforcement is listening in for one reason or another they consider you a BIG FISH! Eaves-dropping by anyone with access to your home is easily accomplished with basic and inexpensive equipment that can be purchased at your local Radio Shack and pinched into wiring or plugged into an unused phone jack. Currently, most private citizens lack the capability to effectively tap into a cellular call but law enforcement easily can through the service provider. But beware both cell phones and cordless phones can be monitored close by with commercially sold police scanners. In most states it is a felony to tap or listen into someone's telephone conversations absent a court order without at least one party to the conversation knowing the call is being monitored or recirded. (With all wireless signals it is a felony to eavesdrop under Federal Law but that doesn't seem to stop anyone.) Other states require both parties know the call is being recorded. (Which is why you will often get notice a call is being "monitored for quality assurance" from businesses conducting business in a variety of states.) But don't assume this is the law in your state just because you have heard these notices.

In short while these devices offer a great deal of convenience keep in mind they can also heap a great deal of misery if used inappropriately.

David Sloane

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