For years, I have set my browser not to save any history of my searching.
For years, I have set Windows 7 to defragment my hard disk once a week.
Now I learn this.
In 2010 David Kernell, a University of Tennessee student, was convicted under Sarbanes-Oxley after he deleted digital records that showed he had obtained access to Sarah Palin’s Yahoo e-mail account. Using publicly available information, Kernell answered security questions that allowed him to reset Palin’s Yahoo password to “popcorn.” He downloaded information from Palin’s account, including photographs, and posted the new password online. He then deleted digital information that may have made it easier for federal investigators to find him. Like Matanov, he cleared the cache on his Internet browser. He also uninstalled Firefox, ran a disk defragmentation program to reorganize and clean up his hard drive, and deleted a series of images that he had downloaded from the account. For entering Palin’s e-mail, he was eventually convicted of misdemeanor unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and felony destruction of records under Sarbanes-Oxley. In January 2012, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that Kernell’s awareness of a potential investigation into his conduct was enough to uphold the felony charge.
At the time Kernell took steps to clean his computer, he does not appear to have known that there was any investigation into his conduct. Regardless, the government felt that they were entitled to that data, and the court agreed that Kernell was legally required to have preserved it.
Hanni Fakhoury, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the feds’ broad interpretation of Sarbanes-Oxley in the digital age is part of a wider trend: federal agents’ feeling “entitled” to digital data.
Am I breaking the law?
Am I a pre-criminal?