Could the Feds Throw 20 Years at You for Deleting a Text Message?

A law meant to target crooked corporations can criminalize your digital history.

Before you clear your browser history or delete an embarrassing drunk tweet, you might want to stop and consider whether you might ever be under criminal investigation. Because a law passed in the wake of the Enron scandal with the intention of keeping corporations from shredding documents is increasingly being applied to the digital footprints of private citizens, and it could cost you decades in prison.

The Nation has analyzed a disconcerting number of recent cases in which the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act has been used to prosecute people in ways it was never intended. The defendants don't engender much sympathy: a friend of the Boston Marathon bombers, a cop who falsified a report, a woman who destroyed her boyfriend's collection of child porn. But by no means should we assume the law is working fairly.

Recent application of Sarbanes-Oxley has been rightly controversial because A) people don't have to know they were under investigation to be charged with destroying evidence and B) it's easy, and common, to delete data without even realizing you're doing it.

This is the latest evolution of the digital age trend for feds to feel "entitled" to your online habits, past and present, Hanni Fakhoury, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the magazine. The rest of the Nation story is well worth your time. And leave it in your history. Let them know you know.

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