How Your Online Information May Be Being Used Against You

Considering your cybersecurity in this day and age is imperative to maintaining safety in both your personal and financial realms of life. Your digital devices contain so much vital information. Family vacation pictures, social media accounts, and even banking information are all stored neatly and conveniently on our personal devices. However, the convenience of having all that information stored in the palms of our hands comes at a potentially hefty price. Consider the events that unfolded at Twitter over the last week.

Hackers gained access to some high-profile Twitter accounts on Wednesday, July 15th. They hacked the accounts of former Vice-President Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates, among others, and urged the hacked accounts’ followers to transfer Bitcoins into the accounts of the hackers with the promise that the return would be doubled. The successful hacking of these accounts made headlines because the accounts belonged to high-profile members of society, but, unfortunately, this type of occurrence is common on the internet. If hackers were able to infiltrate some of the most high-profile social media accounts in existence, imagine how accessible your online information is to someone working against your interests. Rarely are consumers ever fully informed as to the privacy rights they are giving away by using their cellphone, and how that could be harmful to them later.

Obviously, we are not a cybersecurity firm. However, we do see cybersecurity come into play in several of our proceedings. Here are some ways our firm has seen how your cellphone and online information can be used against you in court:

  1. Phone calls and text messages can and will be subpoenaed. Missouri is a one-party consent state. Thus, the person on the other end of the call may be recording and may use that information against you. The actual conversations of phone calls cannot be recorded by the cellphone carrier, but the number called, time of call, and date and time of the call are all information that can be provided. Dates, times, and contents of text messages could be subpoenaed and provided by cellphone carriers.
  2. Many apps track your location. If you have a device that has location tracking enabled and an app tracks your location, that information could be used against you in a criminal or civil case to show where you were and when you were there. This information is frequently used by law enforcement, advertisement companies, and hackers/online predators.
  3. Saved photos and videos may also be requested from your phone and other digital devices to be used in court proceedings. Keep in mind that pictures and videos often contain a geo-tag location along with the time and date.
  4. Emails may provide additional information as to with whom you were communicating. Additionally, emails provide time stamps and the personal information of those communicating with you.
  5. Internet browsing history can provide additional areas for the storage of incriminating evidence to be used in either criminal or civil trials.
  6. Social media use is commonly investigated in Title IX cases and other criminal matters. Law enforcement may use the information available to them on your social media profiles to establish timelines, get a clear idea of your daily activities, and see who you are affiliated with. It is not uncommon for probation or parole officers to check the social media accounts of people on probation or parole.

Next time you pick up your cellphone or digital device, remember that if the former Vice-President of the United States’ Twitter account can become compromised, so can yours. In the same vein, we urge you to be cognizant of the ways in which your online information can be used against you. Hackers are not the only people trying to gain access to our online information—marketers, researchers, and law enforcement are, too. Be conscious of the information you are making available to them.