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'Deleted' Data Can Be Used Against You

The old adage your mother told you about not writing down anything you don't want someone to read applies tenfold when it comes to digital technology.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When it comes to computers, nothing is really private or ever really gone.

From divorce to murder, computer forensic examiner Larry Daniel has seen it all working for the Raleigh-based YourTechnician.com.

"We recover e-mail," he said. "We recover tons of pornography that's on the computers – chat logs where you talk to other people."

Daniel says that what people don't realize is that it is practically impossible to permanently get rid of anything you do on a computer, cell phone, digital music player – or any electronic device that stores data, for that matter.

"Computers never actually delete anything. That's the first mistake most people make," he said. "So basically, even though you think you've cleaned it, you haven't."

And if you're not careful, the information can be used against you.

Scouring computers for information is the latest tool for the courtroom; investigators use what they find to support their cases.

"In some cases, we've done things that have allowed attorneys to establish or destroy alibis in cases," Daniel said.

YourTechnician.com has provided expert witness testimony for a number of high-profile criminal cases – including child pornography, murder and kidnapping – over the past few years.

The cases include those of: Michelle Theer, a military wife convicted in 2004 of conspiring with her lover to kill her husband and April Greer, a slain pregnant woman whose body was found by a farmer working his land in Mebane.

Recovered information is being used in civil suits, such as divorce, too.

"When it comes to computers and the Internet, nothing is sacred," Daniel said. "You're really not safe at all as far as getting information back."


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