This Law Talk episode, let’s talk about “digital breadcrumbs.”
Anything you do on the internet leaves behind a digital trail. Every site, every online interaction and every mouse click leaves behind digital breadcrumbs that can be tracked and followed right back to the source: you.
With this in mind, no matter how many steps you take to attempt anonymous activity, just do not expect to be 100 percent undetectable. That's because every action you take on the internet requires connections between the computer you are using and the site or service you are visiting. These connections require internet I.P. addresses, which are unique identifiers for each computer involved in communications, and the connections are logged and traceable. In a police investigation, with probable cause, a detective can get a search warrant requiring a service, company or owner of a computer to release information about these connections.
We have dealt with a number of Craigslist cases (especially those of the sexual kind), where detectives posed as underage children. The clients thought they were taking enough precautions to remain anonymous, but the internet proved otherwise.
And the are not just sex cases. As another example, we recently defended a client who was accused of stealing military body armor from Joint Base Lewis-McCord, our local Army and Air Force base. Investigators were able to trace the sale of equipment back to our client, who had advertised it online as part of a garage sale. As it turns out, our client had no idea that the body armor was stolen, and we were able to convince the prosecutor of that. But this eposide was costly to our client nonetheless, including attorney fees, taking time away from work and damage to his reputation, all thanks to digital breadcrumbs.
So be aware that every action you take online can leave a digital trail right back to you. Like it or not, as anonymous as you might feel you are when you're surfing the web or visiting that chatroom, anything you say or do online can and will be used against you in a court of law.