[unisog] Suspicious Files

Eric C. Lukens eric.lukens at uni.edu
Tue Dec 9 12:33:14 GMT 2008

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but I did study constitutional law.  
Since you found the files in the course of your normal duties at the 
request of the individual, and not as an agent of law enforcement, 
prosecutors would argue that the evidence does not need a warrant.  
Defense lawyers would argue that the scope of your normal duties should 
not allow you to look around on people's hard drives.  Odds are the 
defense's argument would not stand up.  For example, if a package being 
delivered by FedEx gets torn open accidentally as its being processed, 
and when employees go to tape the box shut again they find it full of 
drugs, the Supreme Court ruled that the evidence would not need a 
warrant as the individuals were not acting as law enforcement officers, 
but were just doing their job.  If a law enforcement officer were to ask 
you to look around on somebody's hard drive and pretend it was part of 
your normal duties, then all bets are off.

That said, I suspect there is nothing inherently illegal about the 
content you have found on the person's hard drive.  But if they are not 
a U.S. citizen (and maybe even if they are), you could probably get them 
deported/detained/put on no fly list with it.  Tread carefully.


unisog-request at lists.dshield.org wrote:
> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2008 12:18:54 -0700
> From: "Bob Henry" <bhenry at boisestate.edu>
> Subject: [unisog] Suspicious Files
> To: unisog at lists.dshield.org
> Message-ID:
> 	<588a5f150812081118q6ca95e22w1be7ad5ac07f21bd at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> One of our Housing office computer techs sent me the following
> question and I'd like to know what members of this list think.  Has
> anyone bumped into this and what did you do?  I've forwarded the
> question to legal as well.
> A student brought his computer to the Student Housing computer support
> people for repairs.  The computer wouldn't boot and the student told
> the Housing technicians they could format the drive if they needed to.
>  The technician managed to boot the computer from its existing
> configuration.  On the computer, the technician found many pictures of
> jet airplanes, interior and exterior pictures of Boise skyscrapers,
> pictures of the presidents planes, videos of planes crashing, pictures
> of airports, pictures of the walkways from the airport, a connection
> to American airlines flights.
> What are our responsibilities for handling this information?  Can we
> present it to law enforcement or would we be violating the 4th
> amendment?

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