Everything is digital now. Everything is electronic now. It is borderline impossible now to not leave an e-footprint wherever it is you’re going. I’m reminded of a scene from Parks and Recreation where Ron Swanson becomes furious when he finds out what “cookies” are, that they’re tracking him and that his home can be easily pulled up on Google Earth. Then he resolves these problems by throwing away his computer. I can understand the frustration. It is a mildly creepy feeling when I’m doing research for a divorce case that I’m working on and an ad pops up for a shoe store or comic book store that I’d been perusing on my phone days earlier or even something relating to that divorce case! All of this leads to me to the perils of the “cloud”.
The “cloud” refers to a network of software, services, and servers running on the internet that can be accessed from basically anywhere. All the big companies are using cloud services now because of their capability to hold tons of information and accessibility: Google, Yahoo, Netflix, Microsoft. You may encounter the cloud every day and not realize how completely and comprehensively encompassing it is. I get access to family photos through the cloud, can pull old apps I decide I want to use again from the cloud, and can edit documents with other attorneys from all over the world using google doc. It’s incredible.
But to quote the Grateful Dead: every silver lining has a touch of gray. It’s possible for all of that information stored in the cloud to get hacked into and accessed by others you may not want to be in there. You probably remember hearing about celebrities whose clouds were hacked and…well, pictures not meant for the public being released on the internet. It’s a huge invasion of privacy. But what if the person getting into your cloud is your spouse? What if you’d allowed them access, shared a cloud with them, and now you’re separated?
Remember to do what you need to do to block their access to your cloud. You need to do more than just tell them, “Hey, you, get off of my cloud.” Gone are the days when someone would have to sit at your laptop to get your photos and e-mails. Now, your scorned wife or husband can use their own phone to see all of that. I’ve had several clients who’ve been able to provide important documents, evidence, and photographs simply by accessing the cloud they’ve always had entry into. Most often, it’s the wife who’s still able to access the cloud shared with her husband, and the husband is none the wiser – probably forgetting that that accessibility is even still out there.
So, how can you protect yourself and your case? Well, make sure not to communicate with anyone using a device that’s on a shared account, or where that device is linked to a cloud share. I’ve seen wayward husbands taking pictures with their new mistresses using their personal cellphones, forgetting that those phones upload the pictures to a shared cloud that my client, the wife, can access. And she does.
So your best bet is to stop using that phone for anything personal or divorce related. Consider buying a new or temporary phone to send e-mails and use for your day to day. Set up a new e-mail that’s private to use for correspondence with family, friends, and especially your attorney. Change your passwords to social media accounts and make sure you’ve logged out of them on any devices shared with your spouse or kids. Be wary of sending an ipad or phone to your spouse’s house for the kids visitation because the kids device could be linked to yours, and that’s an open gateway for prying eyes. If you’re concerned about this particularly, then consider wiping your child’s device (“restore factory setting”), to remove any fodder for your ex.
Talk to your lawyer about any other steps you may be able to take. The last thing you want to do is spoon feed evidence to your spouse in your divorce case straight from the sanctity of your cloud. Especially now that you’ve looked at clouds from both sides now.