Ethics, Privacy and E-Discovery

Whistleblower website Wikileaks recently leaked more than half a million text messages around 9/11. We hesitate to even link to the story, but if you must read it, you can find CNN's coverage here.

There is something sacred about the last messages exchanged with a spouse before a loved one dies. Messages of love. Hurt. Panic. Fear. Impending death. Yet we struggle with a lust for information, and the Internet makes it easy for us to disrespect personal privacy and ethics.

E-discovery brings with it an element of responsibility. Whether investigators are searching email, text messages, or other electronic data, there is an implied code of conduct around how the evidence is to be handled.

Posting these messages online represents a breach of privacy and a rupture in the ethical standards that should exist in any modern nation. In the words of one of the commentators, corkpuller, "deep wounds that have healed need not be reopened for the morbid curiosity of those who want to sell more soap and toilet paper."

... David Sengupta

One Comment

  1. Posted December 2, 2009 at 7:18 AM | Permalink

    Hi David,

    I could not agree with you more. I was horrified to see this. I think the site owner can hide behind the idea that they were simply revealing history or showing the truth, but I still think it’s way too close for most of us and especially those directly involved. I’m fine waiting for the event to be true “history” before something like this had to happen.

    Nick

  2. Ralph Ehlers
    Posted December 3, 2009 at 9:44 AM | Permalink

    Hi David,
    As Nick already stated, I can’t agree more with your statements on required ethical standards in respecting privacy. I am afraid though, to have the impression that the fight for respecting privacy in the digital age is on the brink of getting lost, not only because there are so many people around who seem to put interests before ethics, but also because it looks that so many people don’t really care. Events like this one might teach them better.
    That this breach of privacy occurred on 9/11 material makes it particularly appalling. It also raises questions: is there some vested political interest behind this publication and second, how come that these communications had been recorded at all? I am perhaps just naive to think that legislation in the US to make such recordings legal was created only a a consequence of 9/11.

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