Random Thoughts on Connectivity and Cloning


1.         I am reading Terror and Consent. It mentions the connectivity paradox; the principle that electronic connectivity is directly proportional to the perceived need for meeting face-to face. I believe the opposite holds true; the more people connect electronically, the less they feel the need to do so in person.

 2.         The New York Times Magazine on 29 June featured Europe’s declining birth rate. The real key to this is ethology, in particular the lower reproductive rate of rats in times of crowding and scarcity. I believe that decreased child care and job opportunities for women are only part of the explanation for their having fewer children.

 3.         The Cloning Tool in Adobe Photoshop Elements®  is useful in examining current events.

             A.        Returning to the issue of the decreased birth rate per female in Europe, the traditional social welfare model of supporting the elderly with taxes on younger workers cannot continue. The model must evolve, not clone (or perpetuate) the past. Each individual will need to receive fewer services from government. This may be an example of Parmenides Fallacy, where hopelessness arises from contemplating a perpetuation of current patterns of behavior without considering new options.

             B.        Email privacy in the workplace is at the cutting edge of Internet Law. Clearly employers may monitor employee Internet activity and read their emails in the workplace.  But what happens when the employee is no longer employed?

             In a recent case, a fired work returned without permission, accessed a workplace terminal, and left open an Internet connection to his email with his password saved for two weeks. The employer read post-separation attorney-client communications, and emails reflecting theft of intellectual property. 

             Is an employer entitled to read post-employment email? Let’s “clone” a principal from family law:  Assets acquired during the marriage (other than from gift or inheritance) are marital, and assets accumulated after the last separation of the parties are separate property.  Applying this to the field of computer law, email messages on the workplace computer during employment should be deemed accessible, but ones after termination should not. 

             What about the unlocked door — leaving a computer connected to an Internet email account? In my view, this is like a departing spouse leaving the door open at her new residence. Assets inside may be marital or separate (or in the case of email, accessible by the employer or not) depending the date they came into being. A unlocked door or decrypted Website should not change the character of the location’s contents.

             Cloning a principal of family law, then, my opinion is that an employer should be entitled to look at any data that a former employee stored on the employer’s hard drive before or after termination of employment; and also should be entitled to review every screen-shot the former employee ever generated if the employer was utilizing screen-capture software.

            Here is my proposed principle: If something was stored or made visible on the employer’s computer, then there could not be any expectation of privacy.  Conversely, if — for example — only one email was read or composed out of 3,000 stored at Hotmail; the employer should only be entitled to read that one, and not every email on the site.