Whether an individual is simply “surfing the net”, downloading content through peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, or communicating in a chat-room, law enforcement may be monitoring the activities—there is no anonymity in an individual’s computer usage. If simple internet surveillance and monitoring reveals something that appears criminal, federal agents will then obtain a warrant to seize computers. Simply deleting incriminating files is insufficient when under federal investigation. Federal agents investigating internet crimes possess the computer programs, time, and funding to retrieve data deleted or destroyed by the user.
There are a wide variety of crimes occurring online, ranging from computer hacking to fraud to phishing/spoofing, and can sometimes include charges related to child pornography. As technology becomes further integrated with our commerce system, all types of white collar crime will eventually migrate into the cyber arena. Moreover, new crimes will be invented, as those engaged in cyber-crime may be as ingenious as traditional programmers and designers.
When it comes to cyber-crimes such as identity theft, sex crimes, and piracy, it may feel as though the constitutional right to be deemed innocent until proven guilty is thrown out the door. Even a complete lack of evidence will not stop corporations from pressuring politicians and or law enforcement from pressuring for an aggressive prosecution and harsh punishment for those committing cyber-crimes. Particularly where the subject matter is complex, and the legal framework for determining criminal versus commercial behavior is less than clear.