In some respects, leaving a trail of evidence on the Internet can be even worse than leaving one on paper.
There are countless stories of people being fired, divorced or expelled after an embarrassing discovery on Facebook, Twitter or another social-media site.
Last week, one young woman learned that lesson firsthand, after she bragged about stealing a car and robbing a bank in a YouTube video that she allegedly posted herself.
Hannah Sabata, 19, of Stromsburg, Neb., has been charged with robbery and theft after she allegedly robbed a Cornerstone Bank branch and used a stolen vehicle as a getaway car on Nov. 27 in nearby Waco, Neb., according to local media reports.
The video, titled "Chick Bank robber," was uploaded to YouTube the next day. In it, a young woman uses notecards and subtitles to tell the story of how she stole drugs out of one car, stole a second car and robbed a bank.
The woman then holds up a large wad of cash and says she robbed the bank because the government took away her baby.
Police were already closing in on Sabata, who was identified by multiple people from security-camera footage, before they learned of the YouTube video. The prosecution plans to use the video to build a stronger case against her.
This alternately sad and funny tale should serve as a reminder to everyone that what goes online, stays online — forever.
Think of the Internet as if it were a police officer: Anything you say or do on it can be used against you. There are ways to increase anonymity and privacy online, such as Tor, but even multilayered encryption services like that can be broken.
Even some of America's best and brightest individuals have had their lives turned upside down over online communications.
Gen. David Petraeus, head of the CIA, stepped down after an FBI investigation turned up email evidence of an affair between himself and his biographer. Congressman Anthony Weiner resigned after he tweeted a picture of his genitals to a woman other than his wife.
In Sabata's case, it seems like she took virtually no precautions to hide her identity. She was arrested wearing the same clothes as the woman on the bank's security video, and her blog details how her marriage broke down, how her child was taken away and how she became HIV-positive.
Sabata faces up to 70 years in prison if convicted.
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