Sex, spies & videotape: Seven things we can learn from the Pentagon sex scandal

The scandal engulfing General Petraeus, Paula Broadwell, and assorted friends offers valuable lessons in privacy -- or the lack thereof -- for all of us.


I think by now we are all too familiar with the essential facts of the Petraeus sex scandal, otherwise known as the Love Pentagon. Still this story offers some valuable lessons about Internet privacy, or what little we have left of that precious commodity.

What have we learned beside the correct spelling of General Petraeus’s last name and how many pushups Paula Broadwell can do? These seven things.

1. Anonymous email accounts aren’t

Paula Broadwell probably thought she was being careful by sending her “keep your hands off my man, you brazen hussy” emails to Jill Kelley from a pseudonymous Webmail account. But it didn’t take long for FBI agent Fredrich Humphries to track down the national security consultant’s real identity. The key: The Feds followed the IP address used by the computer that sent the anonymous emails and found out what other accounts were using the same IP address -- presumably by going to Broadwell's ISP and demanding that information -- and matched it with other information they had about Broadwell.

Lesson here: IP addresses aren't perfect unique identifiers, because they are sometimes shared -- but they're a pretty good start. So if you must send harassing emails to a person you suspect of having an affair with the person you're having an affair with, be sure and use an anonymous proxy server to mask where they came from. 

2. Let the right ones in

Inviting the FBI to look into your business is risky business, because there’s no way to control what they will find out. You can bet Jill Kelley is regretting that now.

In other words, if you are planning to invite the federales in to snoop around your inbox, try to make sure there aren’t 20,000 to 30,000 pages of flirtatious email messages with a four-star general in there. (I suspect that’s only the beginning of what the Feds will find there.)

It’s a bit like calling the cops to your door because your neighbor’s dog is barking too loudly and leaving a pound of uncut cocaine on the coffee table. Once you open that door, there’s no closing it.

3. Leave your work at work

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