June 11th, 2015

The Shredder Parties of Yore and Deleting Stuff On Your Computer

The Nation has an article about felony convictions associated with clearing browser caches. That'll get your attention!

http://www.thenation.com/article/208593/you-can-be-prosecuted-clearing-your-browser-history

The Nation doesn't seem very happy about this, and there are definitely some civil liberty issues here. However, it does _feel_ like another instance of "it's not the crime, it's the cover-up", which is limiting my capacity to sympathize.

Examples include: the guy who had dinner with the Tsarnaevs the evening of the day they bombed the Boston Marathon and who lied to police about the Tsarnaevs and his relations with them, the guy who hacked Sarah Palin's e-mail account.

"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."

The legal eagle at an activist organization is expected to have such an opinion. But I wonder why The Nation (okay, I don't wonder very much! I'm not _that_ oblivious to ideology and politics) was so willing to play along. The government doesn't feel entitled to digital data or any other data. They feel like covering stuff up because you don't want other people to find out you did it is itself Wrong, if the action that you are covering up was Wrong.

As for the underlying statute being SarbOx, well, let's not lose track of what SarbOx was created for (hint: the shredding parties of the subject line, that so offended us all when Enron and others went under, and which were difficult if not impossible to prosecute and which rendered very difficult prosecutions for very evil actions with far reaching consequences). Getting rid of it would return us to an era that I'm reasonably certain The Nation would have regarded as the Dark Ages of the government's ability to regulate corporations.

What is _entirely_ missing from the article (it _is_ The Nation after all), is what many corporations did in the wake of SarbOx passing. They created document retention policies and vigorously pursued violators within the company. Hard to say it's a shredding party to cover up a crime if you shred every damn thing when it ages out of a certain window! I guess the moral of the story here is that if you don't want to be prosecuted for deleting photos of the Palin family that you came by illicitly, or be busted for clearing your browser cache after having a little chit-chat with the Feds about one of the most heinous acts of domestic terrorism in the last fewyears, you should make a _habit_ of clearing your browser cache. Then, you don't look guilty. You look like a neat freak.

ETA: It should go without saying, but may not, that it would be much better for everyone if you didn't lie to the feds when they are pursuing a terrorism investigation, or hack into the personal e-mail account of a prominent figure. Even if you don't much care for her personally. And even if the terrorists are your friends.