Archive for August, 2011

Attorney-Client Privilege? Not at Work.

Before writing an email to your attorney, think twice about the repercussions. First of all, as everyone should know by now, once something is released into cyberspace, it’s in cyberspace forever. This includes text messages, chats, emails, pictures, social media conversations, video, and etc. Second, the majority of our time is spent working for a business; and if it’s a job where we access business resources, recognize that these resources are regulated and controlled by…? The business owners, employers, managers, etc.

On Thursday, Sacramento Third Appellate District court ruled that attorney-client privilege is no longer sacrosanct if the communication was between the two parties from the client’s work email address. The decision was unanimous. This means that if you’re going to sue anyone–and especially your employer–do not communicate with an attorney using company resources. The company has the right, because they own the communication device, to use it against you in a court of law.

The ruling basically stated that any messages from client to lawyer were actually conducted under as if the attorney and client were in a conference room with corporate attorneys. In fact, as our world becomes more “open” by technology, companies are forced exert control and keep assets guarded, both legally and electronically.

Similarly, in NJ, the Supreme Court ruled that while email messages were privileged from personal email accounts accessed with work equipment, it was contingent on the fact that use of corporate computers to access personal accounts was not stipulated under a company policy. In other words, if there’s a company rule that states accessing private accounts gives the company access to your communication because it was done on “company time using company resources,” the company can access your communication.

Other cases in the US show that electronic privacy laws are changing, but not always for the best; in Chicago, recording police officers or government employees without their knowledge is against the law. Another court case involving text messages ruled that police officers using work equipment had no right to expect privacy.

The recent, CA case came to light when a secretary filed suit against her employer because, she claimed, they became hostile when she told the employer she was pregnant. The company for which she worked introduced emails at trial to bolster the company’s defense and show that the “victim” was not under emotional distress, but merely frustrated, annoyed, and angry. According to the emails, the woman filed suit because her attorney suggested she do so.

The company won the case, and the woman appealed, claiming her emails were private. The court did not agree.

According to the ruling, the email was not confidential because her employer had a written policy stating email could be audited at any time. The fact that the woman used company email for a private purpose–despite the warning that audits were conducted–left her without legal recourse.

The In’s & Out’s about Hidden Video Cameras

Microcircuit, or microchip, video cameras are miniature cameras about the size of a US quarter or smaller and have been around for about ten years. These tiny video cameras have been the cutting-edge of surveillance technology. The cameras are everywhere and are especially useful for documenting instances of theft in the workplace or capturing video evidence for later use in court.

Pinhole video cameras are micro-video cameras that have been designed with a small pinhole in the front of them. They are optimized so that the image sensor can obtain images through a hole the size of a pin, making them very easy to hide and use in covert situations. Many professionals in the surveillance business offer ready-made setups of micro-video cameras built into just about anything including clocks, teddy bears, coffee pots, lamps, radios, etc.

It’s important for the surveillance professional to understand the available features of these cameras. Here is what to look for:

Automatic Electronic Shutter Adjustment
Video cameras need to have an electronic shutter that automatically compensates for lighting changes. You will find that cameras without AES will under or over expose the resulting image.

Resolution is the number of lines that compose the image captured; more lines equals a better resolution equals a better picture. Many of the lesser expensive cameras have resolution of 360 lines or below. I suggest looking for cameras with 400 lines or better.

Light Rating
Light ratings for cameras are measured in “lux” ratings, which is a measurement of the minimum amount of light needed to capture an image. Many of the cheaper cameras on the market have lux ratings of 1 to over 2.5 and require a lot of light to reproduce an image; you are best staying below 0.5 lux in black and white cameras.

Small Size
Of course, all of these cameras are small. Very small. But size will vary. Size can be as tiny as 29mm (w) X 29mm (h) X 12mm (d) with the best cameras.

Wiring and Power
Many of these cameras aren’t wired; that means you will have to wire them and determine how to route power to them. Some of the better cameras come prewired and allow you to plug them into a standard electrical outlet or a battery pack. Typically these cameras are also prewired with a standard RCA jack to plug into a recorder’s input.

Camera Housing
The better cameras come with a protective housing; the less expensive cameras don’t have a housing are called bare-board cameras. If you are going to install the camera yourself into something like a clock or smoke detector, it’s best to obtain the bare-board camera. The purpose of the housing is, of course, so circuits remain protected during use and remain dust free.

Power Supply
Low quality cameras require a lot of power and will drain batteries very quickly; color cameras consume more power than black and white ones. A short battery life, measured by a few hours, will make using these cameras impractical for most hidden camera applications. Quality professional cameras will give you an extended battery life or offer an optional wall-outlet connection for a limitless power supply.

Aside from these features, there are other important factors to consider. Do you want your images in black and white or color? Do you want to use a wireless camera or a hardwired camera? If you use a wireless model, you will also need a video transmitter; these can be quite bulky. However, with the advent of new technology, there are now self-contained microcircuit cameras that have transmitters built right into them while maintaining their very small size.

Microchip Camera Uses

These cameras can be hidden almost anywhere. They can be set up in a stationary position or hidden on your body. Covert Microchip Cameras can be inserted into the following items for stationary applications:

Desk Lamp
Table Clock
Smoke Detector
Wall Clock
Floor Lamp
Portable Radio
Coffee Maker
Teddy Bear

They can also be used for mobile surveillances as well by integrating them into:

Wrist Watches
Eyeglass Cases
Duffel Bags
Cellular Phones
Portable Radios

A Word About Audio…NO!

Although you will find a number of covert video cameras and microchip cameras with built-in sound, they are actually illegal; in fact, U.S. Customs has raided some places selling these units in the past. The surveillance professional needs to understand that the laws dealing with covert audio recording are much different than those dealing with covert video recording. In states that permit “one party consent,” at least one party contributing to the call must consent to the audio recording. In those states that operate under “two party consent,” all parties must provide consent to the audio recording; there is no such thing as a “no party consent” thus, a covert video camera with audio would be considered an illegal eavesdropping device.

Something doesn’t feel right.

Your honey is coming home late. Not spending as much time with you. Seems distracted. Acts secretive.

Twenty or more years ago, you might have looked for telltale signs of an affair: lipstick on a collar, unexplained credit-card receipts, love notes. You might have picked up the telephone extension and secretly listened in on a private conversation.

Today, high-tech gadgets can do the legwork for you. The question is, what’s legal? That depends, experts say. A variety of federal and state laws govern snooping, electronic and otherwise.

A Michigan man is finding out the hard way that while you can monitor your spouse’s actions, it’s not always advisable to do so. Leon Walker, 33, a computer technician, suspected his wife was having an affair, so he used her password to access her e-mail. He could receive five years in prison if he’s convicted at his felony trial next month.

“If you don’t have the authority or consent, it’s a crime to access someone else’s communications via wire or computer,” said Susan Bunch, a Tampa lawyer whose specialties include technology.

Spouses trying to catch a suspected cheater have their pick of several methods, said Jonathan Gulsby, manager of U-Spy Store on Colonial Drive in Orlando. Like similar shops, U-Spy Store makes customers sign paperwork saying they won’t use the gizmos they buy for illegal purposes.

The most common spying gadgets are:

Video and audio recorders

Tracking devices

Computer keystroke loggers and Internet monitors

Cell-phone call logs

You can videotape or photograph most anyone in a public place, no permission needed, lawyers say. You also can place a camera in your home, including your bedroom, as long as you’re ready to stomach whatever you see.

“Anything visible to the naked eye is fair game,” Bunch said.”The more technology that you have to use and the less widely available the technology you have to use, the more someone will claim it’s illegal.”

But you can’t hide a camera in your lover’s house, or in someone else’s hotel room. Remember the scandal in 2009 involving ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, who secretly was videotaped in the nude?

“You don’t have rights to surveil what’s going on in a place that doesn’t belong to you,” said David Snyder, a Tampa media lawyer and business litigator.

In Florida and some other states, people can get into trouble if they record a conversation without the consent of everyone involved. Christopher Slobogin, a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School who has written on privacy issues, said he had to get permission from every student in the room before recording a lecture.

Nevertheless, you can still buy tiny audio and video recorders that are virtually undetectable. Cameras can be disguised as a shirt button, an ID tag, a pen, a toy car, a calculator, a clock, a smoke detector, a sprinkler head, a keychain and more. “It’s all dark territory,” Gulsby said.

A private investigator is your best bet.

Read more exceeds a combined 15,000 missing and unidentified persons cases — user number surpasses 10,000

Last month the number of cases in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System’s ( two databases reached a combined total of more than 15,000 and the number of registered users has grown to 10,000. To date, NamUs is credited with resolving 120 of the missing and unidentified person cases in its databases. What’s most impressive about these numbers is that this has all happened in a little more than two years.

The exponential growth of NamUs since its launch in January 2009 illustrates the true potential of this system. In 2009, the number of missing person cases in the system doubled, and last year they nearly tripled. This continued growth is critical because with more cases in the system, more cases can be solved and more families can get the resolutions they have been seeking for so long.

NamUs is a national repository for information about missing and unidentified persons. The public may register to search and report information in the missing person database and may search, but not add, information about unidentified persons. Law enforcement officers, coroners, and medical examiners and other professionals may register to search and report information to the missing person database and the unidentified persons database.

More than two-thirds of the 10,000 registered NamUs users are members of the general public. The balance are death investigation professionals such as coroners, medical examiners and law enforcement officers. The missing persons database contains 7,557 entries and the unidentified persons database has 7,938 records.

Two cases illustrate how NamUs can aid investigators

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All Investigations Lead to… Porn?

It all started with a joke…

All investigations seem to lead to pornography,” quipped Ryan Hubbs, a senior manager for Matson, Driscoll & Damico, Forensic Accountants, chatting with a group of colleagues at an ACFE conference a few years ago.

Hubbs had spotted an odd pattern. Time after time, as he investigated claims of contractor fraud or embezzlement, he’d uncover a little something on the side, such as additional accusations of bullying or harassment or, most frequently, pornography downloaded onto an accused employee’s computer.

His joke struck a nerve. “We started talking about it,” he recalls, “and everybody else said, ‘You know, I’ve had some cases where after we did the forensic analysis, we found the guy was also investigated for sexual harassment.’” That’s when Hubbs started to wonder whether what he was seeing was mere coincidence, or correlation.

“The correlation is somewhere between zero and a hundred percent,” Hubbs jokes, admitting that he’s no social scientist. Plenty of people, he contends, have glanced at a sexy photo or two online without ever going on to commit fraud. He’s reluctant to draw any absolute conclusions about correlation or causality.

But as a professional fraud examiner, he is a keen observer of human behavior. And in his fascinating lecture at the San Diego ACFE conference in June, he shared those observations and posed a question to fellow investigators: What if we could search out fraudsters by zeroing in on employees who download porn or have been reported for bullying or harassing co-workers? Is there a strong enough correlation between outright fraud and other “deviant” behaviors to use those behaviors as markers?

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