While we all gush over the juicy details of David Petraeus's infidelity, some are expressing concern about what the investigation tells us about online privacy. If it was so easy to get access to Petraeus's Gmail account, what does that mean for the rest of us?, one commenter wonders. Mhwood writes:
As CEOs, politicians and execs already found out, all emails and texts are now discoverable ... your electronic communications will hang you. No more plausible deniability, no more he said-she said, no more gauze of distant memories: all your words, pictures and timelines are forever preserved.
See Cain and Weiner, Hurd (former HP CEO), Brian Dunn, Joe Rogers, and on and on. The times they are a'changin'.
Our commenters aren't the only ones preoccupied with such worries. "It's a particular problem with cyberinvestigations," executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center Marc Rotenberg told The New York Times' Scott Shane. "They rapidly become open-ended, because there’s such a huge quantity of information available and it’s so easily searchable. If the C.I.A. director can get caught, it’s pretty much open season on everyone else."
The MIT Technology Review's Tom Simonite has a particularly sobering rundown of what this scandal reveals about the state of online privacy. Basically, even drafts of saucy emails you never send are retrievable, a judge's permission isn't required to search your email history from the last six months, and investigators can easily use IP addresses to pinpoint your physical location. It's enough to make you feel like the whole world is looking over your shoulder while you G-chat. Of course, we're not all former heads of the CIA.