Does delete really erase email?

January 10, 2008 5:17:22 PM PST
So when does delete really mean delete? The short answer is not often. When you delete an email from your computer, don't be fooled, it still exists at least for a time. And, if the email is inappropriate, it can come back to haunt you in the long run.

Deleting it doesn't necessarily erase the information from your hard drive or sever. Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not there.

Houston's Data Doctors has recovered email for companies large and small.

Technician Mark Elliott says that's because data is almost always recoverable. They once restored a hard drive that was submerged in water during Hurricane Katrina.

Elliott has been watching the goings on involving District attorney Chuck Rosenthal and how he reportedly said he deleted thousands of emails from his work computer. We don't know what was in those emails, but we do know pornography and other questionable material was found on files in his computer that weren't deleted.

At Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, Chris Bronk is set to publish an op-ed piece on just how our online privacy rights are shrinking.

"Most email is not very private at all," Bronk told us.

Bronk says the servers that retain information sent from your work or home computer can be warehouses of information you may not want seen publicly.

"What it does provide is an incredible trail of evidence," he said.

Attorney Richard Alderman says no matter where you work, you should never send any email that you wouldn't want your boss to see.

"The workplace is where there is the biggest misconception to this so called right of privacy, you don't have it," Alderman told us.

Even at home, your private email may not forever remain private. Once there is litigation, any email is discoverable. It's fair game for someone involved in a lawsuit to access.

"If it's relevant to that litigation, it can be discovered including almost everything that's on your computer," Alderman said

While you may not be able to do anything about what's on a server, experts say there is only one way to really destroy the information on your hard drive. That is to destroy the drive itself.

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