If any good has come from the troubling tale of former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus and his sordid affair with his 40-year-old biographer, it is a lesson in exercising caution in what one writes in emails.
While covering one’s tracks is not the moral that should be taken away from the media frenzy that has followed the “Petrayal” incident that has likely caused much grief to multiple families, it is a side note that should be heeded.
The tip-off of the scandal has been identified as an email sent from a Tampa woman to the FBI. The depth of the scandal can be seen in the “harassing emails” that Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’ alleged mistress, sent to the Tampa woman, who Broadwell supposedly suspected was growing closer to Petraeus. The details of the scandal are all found in “intimate messages” within Petraeus’ private Gmail account — even though he reportedly used a dropbox-like system that allowed Broadwell to see the emails as drafts instead of actually transmitting them, in hopes of evading the ability to retrieve them. The Washington Post reported the tactic to be similar to tricks terrorists use when communicating in fear of espionage.
But the one thing that even the director of an agency that prides itself on secrecy cannot escape is the shield of privacy that the Internet — and public records laws — whisk away from all. This brief window into his personal email account could provide valuable information into other matters of national security and even allow hackers to access more classified information — a reason he was ultimately asked to resign.
But particularly in the state of Florida, where all government employees — including university employees — are, in the interest of open government and transparency, subject to having their email searched, it is
imperative one consider the merit of what is being put in written and electronic communication.
While the convenience of such communication has replaced note-passing and workplace whispering with emails to the person sitting next to you about the awful third person at a meeting or emails about non-work-related activities, email communication doesn’t offer much protection to those who are afraid of their dirty
laundry being accessible to all.
Even after deleting one’s browsing history, if one is logged into a Google account, any search is saved in the history and could potentially be accessible to all.
While the majority of people will never be swept into a media maelstrom and could likely safely get away with workplace wantonness, the importance of watching what one allows the Internet to know should not be forgotten.