Full Disk Encryption Is Priority One For Formula One Drivers: Blackmail Suggested But Where’s The Crime?.

Reportedly, a “thief” has tried to “blackmail” Formula One driver Adrian Sutil.  I’m having problems calling the guy a thief, though, and I’m not sure I see the blackmail angle.  Not that I’m excusing this guy from his actions.  Either way, he has helped highlight the need for better disposal practices when it comes to throwing away one’s computer.  Hard drive encryption could have helped in this case, although a magazine publisher with standards will serve in a pinch.


The facts are the following, supposedly: Sutil’s father gets rid of the computer.  Nobody knows where it ended up, but a man by the name of “Dieter” acquires the hard disk found in the computer.  Dieter accesses the disk and finds Sutil’s data: financial information, such as Swiss bank account transactions, as well as photographs and personal correspondence.  Obviously, data security measures like full disk encryption from AlertBoot were not present; otherwise, Dieter wouldn’t have nothing but a nice magnet and assorted metals.


The suspect then proceeds to contact Bild Motorsport magazine in an attempt to sell the disk for approximately $12,000, a hefty bounty for a jobless man like Dieter.  The editor of the magazine gets in touch with the police; a sting is set up; seller is caught and charged with attempted blackmail and possession of stolen personal data.


I guess I just don’t understand how German law works, because as far as I can tell, there was no theft and there was no attempt to blackmail.  I mean, Sutil’s privacy would have been invaded if the information were released to the media—there’s no argument there.  But it’s not as if Dieter stole the computer from the F1 racer’s home.  Dieter could have bought the thing for $15 at a recycling plant, who knows?  And is it a crime that he recognized a public figure? And how is Dieter responsible for Sutil (or his father) not wiping the data prior to throwing out the computer?  And, where are the attempts to blackmail?  Generally blackmail consists of getting in touch with the victim—there was no attempt to reach Sutil, as far as I can tell.


Maybe Dieter is jobless because he’s in Germany.  In the US, he’d be an entrepreneur.  Certainly, I’d consider him to be the lowest kind of entrepreneur, down there with paparazzi (legal profession) and arms traffickers (illegal profession).  But, as gross as his actions may be, Dieter wouldn’t have belonged to the latter type of profession had he been able to carry out his so?called “crime.”  And if F1 were popular, he’d have made a pretty penny.


The burden really falls on the Sutil family in this case, as far as I can tell.  They should have thought of the consequences and acted accordingly.  I’m sure they don’t throw out sensitive documents willy?nilly: contracts, Swiss bank account statements, love letters, what have you.  Why wouldn’t they exercise the same caution when it comes to throwing away a computer?


Perhaps the father was not computer?savvy enough?  The thing is, “I didn’t know” is not an adequate defense when it comes to breaking the law, it shouldn’t be a defense in this case either.

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