Digital trails in dalliances
December 9th, 2009

When I wrote a post here called “Tiger and the tweets,” I was convinced the networking laws at work in tweeting would operate to reveal a guy’s innocence. What I think I was wrong about was only the guy’s innocence. We are seeing smartmobby mechanisms at work to ferret what actually happened, good or bad. Today’s New York Times has a story to that point, about how text messages are increasingly being used in court to prove guilt in dalliances. From that story, “Text Messages: Digital Lipstick on the Collar”:

Text messages are the new lipstick on the collar, the mislaid credit card bill. Instantaneous and seemingly casual, they can be confirmation of a clandestine affair, a record of the not-so-discreet who sometimes forget that everything digital leaves a footprint.

This became painfully obvious a week ago when a woman who claims to have had an affair with Tiger Woods told a celebrity publication that he had sent her flirty text messages, some of which were published. It follows on the heels of politicians who ran afoul of text I.Q., including a former Detroit mayor who went to prison after his steamy text messages to an aide were revealed, and Senator John Ensign of Nevada, whose affair with a former employee was confirmed by an incriminating text message.

Unlike earlier eras when a dalliance might be suspected but not confirmed, nowadays text messages provide proof. Divorce lawyers say they have seen an increase in cases in the past year where a wronged spouse has offered text messages to show that a partner has strayed. The American Bar Association began offering seminars this fall for marital attorneys on how to use electronic evidence — text messages, browsing history and social networks — in proving a case.

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