In case you haven’t already heard, blogger Charles LeBlanc was arrested and charged with libel. Many people have questioned the validity and applicability of the charges. This blog post isn’t going to do that, instead, we will be discussing the seizure of computer equipment for “evidence”.
During the raid, they took his computer, monitor, speakers and cable modem. None of these were actually required as evidence, not even the computer.
Charles’ blog is hosted on blogspot.com, a Google service. His computer has nothing to do with serving web pages. During a normal investigation, the police would subpoena Google to get the IP address of the poster, then subpoena the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to get the owner of the IP address’s account. That is all that is needed as proof. Even with the PC, there is no way they can get any more proof that it was actually Charles sitting in that chair typing those words. In fact, assuming he used the online post editor, there would likely be no trace at all on his computer. Even if they needed to access the computer, there are forensic tools available that will make an image of the hard drive on-site, without the need for a complete seizure.
This is clear evidence that our court system does not understand technology at all. This will be abused. We now know that someone can have IT equipment removed at the mere accusation of libel. How often will we see this being used as an intimidation tactic?