See, the great thing about ISPs is this:
EVERYTHING – and I mean everything – that you send or receive is logged on their servers. Any websites you visit, any files you download or upload, any videos you watch on youtube (or DailyMotion, or any video service), even your spotify account. Basically, anything you use your computer for, on the internet gets logged at some stage or another.
Regardless of whether you clear your browsers history and cache, use the “privacy mode” on your browser, or install any proxy software to defer packets as they come and go from your machine – in fact, a lot of ISPs will cut you off if they even suspect that you’re using a proxy system.
Here’s an example:
Say I send an email to my friend Bob, on La Planeta De Aqua, my ISP logs it and his ISP logs it. Not only that, but our email providers log it. That’s 4 logs of that one email. Then, of course, both of our email providers keep a copy of the email for 10 years.
So, not only do I have a copy of the email, but Bob does, and so do our email providers. Which make it oh so easy to pull up any evidence of… well anything, by law enforcement.
Say, I sent Bob an email making fun of his ethnicity (scaly, fish based life forms for a planet whose name means “The Planet of Water” in Spanish have bad breath, or whatever), and he decides to take legal action. The long and short is, I’m buggered… from a legal stand point.
He has a copy of the email, I have a copy of the email, his email provider has a copy of the email, and so does mine. His ISP has a log of the email being received, my ISP has a log of the email being sent. Details of exactly who sent them, who received them – and where in the world they came from, and where in the world they went to – are hard written into the email header.
On top of that, all ISPs and all email providers are legally obligated to pass on these details to ANY law enforcement in ANY country that requests it. Plus, since this information gets kept for (at least) 10 years, cases can be deferred while more evidence is collected. Also, there is no statue of limitations (in most countries) on this kind of thing.
So, it doesn’t matter how long ago it was when I sent this hypothetical email, I could be charged the next day, the next year or the next decade.
Something to think about there, hopefully.
This has been an educational and somewhat allegorical post, brought to you by me, J.