In a recent article posted on Ars Technica, Kenneth Sodomsky (oddly similar to sodomy if you know the story) was prosecuted for child pornography after some techs at Circuit City found child porn on his computer. No doubt he was wrong as could be. His computer was littered with video and pictures of 13 – 14 year old boys being “touched” (s0rry for the gory details). His information was turned over to the police by Circuit City after a tech was supposed to be installing a DVD drive on the computer. It was deemed that in the normal process of installing the drive the tech didn’t violate his privacy because he needed to search through his files for videos.
This is an American tragedy. Not because of the fact that we have perverts in the world looking at under age children. That’s the perfectly obvious part. However, I am appalled that he was prosecuted and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania upheld that the techs needed to search through his computer for videos. When has it ever been necessary for a person to need the video files on the computer to install a DVD drive.
The issue at hand is your privacy. If you send your computer into a shop they don’t have the right to rummage through your files. Imagine if the tech went through the person’s database or accounting data. This is very sensitive information but if information is on my hard drive it’s all sensitive. I don’t even send in error reports on anything because that developer may keep IP address information with the data sent back to him with any other data that could be sold. This data could be used to give a company a competitive advantage because they know something about me that their competitors could never know.
Imagine if you’re an avid Quicken user and you files are looked at. You could be brought up on charges of tax evasion or money laundering because of your shoddy accounting techniques. Does the ends always justify the means? In my book the answer is no. In the case of the Kenneth Sodomsky he’s getting what he deserves however, I would have rather him get it from good investigative work that my false privacy beliefs from your local computer store.