Online Privacy and Law Enforcement Investigation

Jonathan Bick, adjunct professor at Pace University and Rutgers University’s law schools, has written an informative article that may change the way you view using your email and other online services.  The terms-of-use agreements “specifically state that ISPs are allowed to read the email they process” thus “internet users have no reasonable expectation of privacy for their email.”  So every email and text message is subject to review by any internet service provider (ISP) that processes this information.

This works to the advantage of law enforcement in criminal investigations.  The access that ISP’s have to email is an important tool that police officers can use to find evidence in the online accounts of suspects.  From theft, to assault, to even murder, online accounts can provide critical information that can be found in emails and on social networks to charge or convict individuals.  The information age has made it easier for police officers to locate leads and make arrests.

Just as the internet can provide the means to help solve crime, it can also pose dangerous risks for the general public and in particular law enforcement.  Police privacy and police safety go hand-in-hand when it comes to the internet and the same tools that law enforcement uses to help society can also be used to hurt them.  Websites that post names, addresses, and the relatives of police officers, judges, and prosecutors expose those same public officials, unsuspecting citizens, and victims of crime to perpetrators.  Furthermore, some of these sites fail to honor their own opt-out policies or post false information about individuals that can seriously affect and harm them.

So what are some ways that crimes can continue to be solved and privacy still be maintained?  It will come through the work of organizations like Privacy for Cops advocating for those who want their data removed, and through stronger laws to regulate the use and access to data.  Both working together will provide a better safety net for those who use the internet and preventing casualties of an ever growing information age.

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One Response to Online Privacy and Law Enforcement Investigation

  1. Jim V says:

    Great topic. What about privacy for non-cops? Why don’t private citizens deserve that same level of privacy, if they so desire, in order to protect their families from any kind of potential future harm. Look what is happening on the streets of countries like Brazil…people get kidnapped for ransom as a regular daily occurrence. Could that — or some electronic variation of it — be our future someday, with all the economic insecurities that many more people face in this great nation, each day? I hope not, and I want not, but I need to protect myself and my family…that is my duty. Isn’t it? Internet privacy needs a major legal overhaul. Buy one thing online and have it mailed to your home. Your personal information gets sold across the board, worse than slavery. You don’t even know about it. It happens in the darkness of the internet. You are now visible through many sites—some which refuse to remove you without undue hardship and months of time. Some never do, and go unpunished. Unlisted telephone numbers are laughable. Paying companies to handle this for you doesn’t work either. I’ve tried it. It also seems like extortion to have to resort to that, to me.

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