"In the era of NO PRIVACY, The secret is honesty"
February 24, 2007
By Patrick Kampert
February 24, 2008
Fascination with telling truth and telling lies is as old as human history but remains compelling fare. Why else would Fox's reality TV series "Moment of Truth," with its dependence on polygraphs, have pulled in the highest ratings of any new show in the last year?
And if it seems that technology is forcing you to be honest, you're probably right. In fact, a 2006 study by University of Newcastle researchers in England showed people are much more likely to be honest when they think someone is watching.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick recently found himself on the receiving end of that lesson. His affair with his chief of staff is documented in text messages they sent to each other on city-owned equipment. If they had used their personal cell phones instead of the fancy Skytel network, their secret might have been safe. Instead, the messages ended up as part of a legal case that gave Detroit a $9 million bill.
And let's not forget Anu Solanki, the 24-year-old Des Plaines woman whose disappearance last December from a Cook County forest preserve spurred a search that cost taxpayers $250,000. Cell phone records showed she was not a crime victim but was simply running away with a man who was not her husband.
Technology is proliferating, to the extent that nationally known private investigator Steven Rambam (pallorium.com) teaches seminars to law-enforcement groups and others called "Privacy Is Dead. Get Over It." David Brin, author of "The Transparent Society: The End of Privacy," says there's no turning back. But the key to our freedom, and the inevitable comparisons to Big Brother, depends on just how far and wide the technology is available.
"If these things are closely held by elites, then we could get a permanent dictatorship," Brin said. "But if it's widely shared and easily available, then this technology would be Big Brother's worst nightmare. We'd still face a lot of drawbacks and social problems, but at least we'd be free."
With all the ways that our lives can be tracked, it pays to be honest, because you'll get caught if you're not. Let us count the ways:
E-mail and data recovery
The reality: As director of legal technologies for Kroll Ontrack, a major provider of data recovery worldwide, Michele Lange has seen hard drives that have been shot with guns, burned with lighter fluid or dumped in rivers and lakes. Her firm usually is able to rebuild much of the hard drive anyway. It also deals with everything from voice mail to thumb drives to Blackberrys.
Fast fact: Anyone can use software to monitor family members' home-computer use. An e-mail that is sent usually exists in several places, so deleting it on your own machine won't do much -- and places like Kroll usually can get it back anyway.
The future: E-mails are increasingly used in many court cases; it's a trend that's likely to escalate. In a survey, 82 percent of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers said e-mails are the most common technological evidence they see in divorce cases. Women use the evidence more than men.
GPS and cell phones
The reality: In addition to the GPS features on an increasing number of phones, the use of GPS devices planted on a spouse's car in divorce proceedings is increasing, said Chicago divorce attorney Gemma Allen of Ladden & Allen. The "bumper beepers" not only reveal location but also speeds, braking and enough info to call in a "How's My Driving?" report. The devices are distasteful, Allen added. They're also illegal unless your name appears on the title of the car.
Fast fact: Cell-phone carriers know approximately where you are at any given moment; it could be a 10-foot radius or a 200- to 300-foot radius, said Rambam.
The future: As GPS spreads, you can run but won't be able to hide.
Voice mails and text messaging
The reality: Land-line voice mails are stored for a long time, said Verizon spokesman Bill Kula. Cell-phone voice mails and text messages have a much, much shorter shelf life, unless it's a specialized system like the one that is now hounding the Detroit mayor.
Fast fact: For several months after 9/11, family members asked Kula's company for help in retrieving final messages left on land-line phones by loved ones lost in the attacks. Verizon found them, he said.
The future: For all types of data, said investigator Rambam, "storage costs have gone down so information is never thrown away."
The reality: It's not just the police red-light cameras at the traffic signals. They're everywhere. And in America, Brin says, most of the cameras are in private hands.
Fast fact: In England, where trust of the police is high, several communities saw crime rates fall dramatically when scores of cameras were installed in seedy areas.
The future: "A day will come," Brin said, "when a child who buys a roll of these cute little stickers will peel off penny cameras that instantly start presenting images on the Web."
See today's related stories "Beyond the polygraph test" PAGE 6 and "No lie: A surefire test for truth is elusive" N ZONE, PAGE 6
(NOTE: The author of this article mistakenly referred to Pallorium's Senior Director as "Michael" Rambam. That error has been corrected in this reprint.
(The original story can be found at: www.chicagotribune.com/features/chi-0224_honesty_d_k_nfeb24,1,5489178.story.)
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"QUALITIES OF LIFE - Beyond the polygraph test"
February 24, 2008
Honesty really is the best policy, since technology will stop you in your tracks if you tell a lie. Or two. Or three. Besides data recovery and voice mails, here are some other ways the no-privacy era is ushering in a new reality. (See the Q cover for additional technological traps.)
CELL PHONE BILLS
The reality: Chicago divorce attorney Gemma Allen says "all it takes is a subpoena" to get those cell-phone records to see who you're talking to how many times a day, how long the calls last and so on. If it's a joint account, either party can get them instantly.
Fast fact: Allen has seen cases in which cell phones were bumped in a pocket or a purse and speed-dialed the estranged spouse -- who heard much more than a mere conversation between the other spouse and a lover.
The future: Unless there is an outbreak of widespread fidelity, cell-phone records will continue to be subpoenaed.
ATMS AND CREDIT CARDS
The reality: Everyone knows that credit-card use gives a clear picture of your location and spending habits. But people sometimes forget that, with an ATM, the transaction location, amount and time are logged. Makes it harder to lie and say you were somewhere else.
Fast fact: If your pattern was to withdraw $100 weekly before divorce proceedings began but you've suddenly upped it to $300, you've got some explaining to do to the judge, said Allen.
The future: More of the same. Be careful out there.
The reality: If you have a joint I-Pass account, your better half can find out very quickly online if you were really on the Tri-State Tollway last Thursday night to visit a sick friend or whether you actually were closer to Aurora where that friendly co-worker lives. But realistically, said divorce lawyer Allen, an I-Pass is a little too vague to be of much use. "I haven't seen it much, other than proving someone was having an affair in DuPage; it's very generic. We don't even think about it anymore."
Fast fact: I-Pass records are occasionally subpoenaed in criminal and civil cases, says tollway spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis.
The future: Beyond I-Pass, the Tribune's Eric Zorn reported last month that Chicago now has 26 vans equipped with AutoVu, a camera system that lets Chicago's Department of Revenue very quickly check license plates to see if unpaid parking tickets or red-light violations should result in a car getting the boot treatment.
The reality: Programs such as those grocery-store discount cards can be very revealing. At private investigator Steven Rambam's workshops, he asks for a volunteer from the audience, who usually regrets it. "In 90 seconds, without a picture, I can determine your race, religion, sexual orientation, your politics," he said. Oh, and also your food and music preferences and any hobbies or interests you have.
Fast fact: Eating too many pork rinds or drinking too many beers? Your health insurer probably wouldn't like that. In 2001, a grocery chain called Stop & Shop tried out a program called SmartMouth. It considered selling loyalty card info to several HMOs but the program, thankfully, fizzled. "The uproar was enormous," Rambam said.
The future: Insurers have begun penalizing smokers. SmartMouth was probably the first crest of a wave.