September 16, 2007
Divorce Attorneys Big Users Of Electronic Evidence

Privacy protection advocates worry about intrusive governments and nosy corporations. But spouses looking at divorce have the keenest interest in electronic secrets.

“In just about every case now, to some extent, there is some electronic evidence,” said Gaetano Ferro, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, who also runs seminars on gathering electronic evidence. “It has completely changed our field.”

Privacy advocates have grown increasingly worried that digital tools are giving governments and powerful corporations the ability to peek into peoples’ lives as never before. But the real snoops are often much closer to home.

“Google and Yahoo may know everything, but they don’t really care about you,” said Jacalyn F. Barnett, a Manhattan-based divorce lawyer. “No one cares more about the things you do than the person that used to be married to you.”

Spying gets used in many ways. First off, spouses check up on each other to look for evidence of an affair in order to decide whether to divorce. But even if they decide to divorce before getting such evidence they still want evidence of affairs both to justify to themselves that they are the offended party and also to strengthen their position in bargaining for divorce settlement terms.

Another purpose for spying is purely financial. If the spouse has hidden assets then discovery of the assets creates the potential for a more advantageous settlement. One story mentioned in the Times article has a surgeon secretly buying a $3 million condo in order to continue an affair while denying that the affair is still happening. Cheeky devil.

The electronic trails left by emails, phone records, hidden recording devices, and the like create a fuller picture of just what humans have been doing on the sly.

Electronic means of surveillance are only going to grow more powerful, cheaper, and easier to use. Electronic devices mountable under vehicles provide a way for spouses to track each other's movements. But in the future smaller devices will be embeddable in clothing and other personal items to record sound and video of a person's day and form a much fuller image of what people do when their spouse is not around.

Surveillance technology will also transform the handling of paroled criminals. Already some criminals have to wear a ring around their leg or mounted in some other way on them to track their movements. But imagine when a ring worn around an extremity will be able to record all video and audio for a person for days and weeks. Recidivists who commit crimes while on parole will almost always get caught. You might think that crimes could still be concealed by briefly covering up a ring. But how about miniature video recorders mounted behind eyeballs? A person couldn't conceal where they are without closing their own eyes.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 September 16 02:59 PM  Surveillance Society

Brian Hayes said at September 16, 2007 4:25 PM:

Behind eyeballs?!?
Portending the SSS?
Himmler's excarnate Reich of Surgenics, combining surveillance with surgery and selection!

Such a world would null marriage to less than a theatrical afternoon.

Worryingly though, your post conceals nothing.

rsilvetz said at September 16, 2007 7:06 PM:

Interestingly, the easiest way to stop all this is to make it mandatory that all politicians be tracked at all time and their every movement and communication recorded... other than the politicians who will object?

Longer term though, every human being will want to record his or hers life. The reality is that Singularity is coming in some form or another. Exponentially accelerating techs will converge in unexpected ways. The human alive 200 years from now, assuming we escape a GATTACA totalitarian space, should be living an exciting extraordinary life from birth to death. Brings up an interesting 5th Amendment issue doesn't it? Time index replay could be totally exculpatory or totally inculpatory....

Lono said at September 17, 2007 10:17 AM:


You said it man - take away the politicians privacy rights - and soon their will be a massive push for regulation on the surviellance industry.

The elitests only hope is to create a lock down 1984 society where men cannot question their rulers - and if mankind is foolish enough to allow that (I'm looking at you China) then "we" deserve what we get.

Time will tell - you can't say that time and time again we haven't been warned...

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