Editor’s note: Mario Armstrong is HLN’s digital lifestyle contributor. He breaks down complex technological concepts to help people incorporate the latest gadgets, applications, and digital devices into their lives.
Maybe you've heard? David Petraeus has resigned from his post as CIA director because of an FBI investigation that uncovered an email trail that exposed an extramarital affair.
The interesting thing is that more and more government requests are being made for your info. According to a report by Google, law enforcement agencies nationwide have submitted 7,969 requests for the first six months of 2012.
So what does this teach us about our communications in this digital age?
Don't cheat on your spouse and you won't have anything to worry about!
But seriously, all jokes aside, here are a couple of things to know before you make that next click:
Remember, even if you're using your secret email, IM or social media account (you know, the one you set up so you can comment on the "Twilight" message board so your friends won't know you're on team Edward) you are not invisible online -- it's incredibly hard to hide your digital tracks. Yes, there are some tools out there but even that isn't 100%. (And seriously ... Edward? He's soooooo boring. Ugh.)
Your internet communications can be traced through the IP address of your computer. What's an IP address? It's a string of numbers that websites use to deliver the information you ask for back to your computer. Want to know what yours is? Just Google "What's my IP address?" It will be the first result that comes up. Google just used your IP address to give you your IP address, see how that worked? Here's the thing, Internet service providers keep logs of where that address has been online for a while, sometime as long as 18 months. Clear your browser history all you want, but if law enforcement wants to know where you've been online, they can probably find out.
Unsent email drafts are also vulnerable. Petraeus and his mistress allegedly kept a draft of an email in an Internet-based email account that they both had access to. They would write to each other in that draft, but never hit send. But just because you don't hit send doesn't mean it's not ON-line. Webmail services are REALLY vulnerable on many levels. If you use web-based email, you need to really think twice about what you are communicating online.
Bottom line: Online is just that ON-line! If you want to communicate with some privacy, DO IT OFFLINE!