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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