Last year, the release of troves of user data from the infamous website Ashley Madison, a social networking service for individuals soliciting extramarital affairs, led us to caution you on the perils of sharing your personally-identifying data with a particular cause or organization (see our tip from October 30, 2015). However, individuals concerned about the privacy of their sensitive information have more to be concerned about than just the disclosure of their online philandering.
In a recent federal court case, a Florida man developed an allegedly "platonic" online relationship with a married Ohio woman. After becoming suspicious, the woman's husband installed a product on a home computer – possibly the wife's computer – known as WebWatcher, which allowed him to monitor her communications. According to the product's manufacturer, WebWatcher records all activity on a computer or mobile device, including emails, instant messages, websites visited, web searches, social media activity, and anything typed in real time, and then contemporaneously forwards this information to outside servers. A WebWatcher user then can remotely access and view copies of this information.
This case highlights the fact that your expectation and understanding of your privacy may be entirely inconsistent with reality. Any time you use a computer, smart phone, tablet, or similar electronic device – including your own or one owned by one of your friends or family members – that is neither physically secured nor password protected, the confidentiality of your communications and information is at risk. Unless adequately secured, you should assume that, if you can type it, someone can read it.
Check out our series, Privacy Perils, to learn what steps you can take to guard your personal and company data. For more information about this topic and other cyber security concerns, please contact Bob Brewer, Tony McFarland, Elizabeth Warren or a member of our Privacy & Data Security team.