LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: Your Hard Drive as Witness Against You by Dr AbdelGadir Warsama Ghalib, Legal Counsel, Bahrain

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Dr AbdelGadir Warsama Ghalib, Principal Legal Counsel, Bahrain

All of us nowadays, use our computers almost all through the day. For work or non-work purposes. While doing this, many people confide their deepest secrets to their computers. Would you want everything you have ever typed into your computer to be revealed publicly?

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Forensic computer investigators in President Clinton impeachment case discovered damaging evidence on the hard drive of Lewinsky computer-They discovered evidence she clearly thought was very secret and completely private, including copies of deleted e-mails and drafts of letters she had never sent. Taking what happened in this famous case, what protection do you have for information stored on your Computer?

The US Constitution and general principles of criminal law prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by official bodies. In enforcing the provisions of the Constitution and the law, the Courts normally ask, did the person being searched have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place searched or the item seized? If yes, then the official bodies must obtain a warrant from a Court before conducting the search.

Example of another US case, XYZ worked for a Public Corporation, which notified its employees that they could use their computer only for official business and the Corporation would conduct electronic audits to ensure compliance. While monitoring the system, they discovered that XYZ had illegally downloaded child pornography from the Internet onto his official computer. Investigators, operating without a warrant, reviewed and copied all picture files XYZ had downloaded. He was convicted of receiving child pornography and sentenced to 18 months in prison. On appeal, he alleged that the search was illegal because it had been conducted without a warrant. The Court held that, in light of the Public Corporation announced policy, XYZ did not have reasonable expectation of privacy in the files downloaded from the Internet. His conviction stood.

Apart from the difficulties that could arise in forensic evidence such crimes are increasing daily. Take utmost care, while using your friend computer as it could easily turn against you and be your deaf, blind and mute enemy.

Your deleted messages could be retrieved, photos could be brought back, old drafts could be found. You don’t see them; you believe they have gone with the wind. No, they are hiding somewhere in the cyber which you don’t see while others do.