In Spain, some 92% of the people connect with the internet at least once a day. We Spaniards spend an average of five hours a day connected to the Web. The immense majority of that time goes to social networks and messaging.
A large part of these people could be committing crimes without knowing it: things people think are “normal” and that they do daily without knowing that they are exposing themselves to fines and even prison terms.
Let’s examine some of these crimes that people commit unconsciously when using the Web. We won’t detail the corresponding sentences, but most of the crimes we’ll study are punished with heavy fines and even prison sentences.
Before beginning, it’s important to note that most of the crimes that are committed on the internet are not limited to this medium, but have an equivalent in the real world. Nevertheless, the false sensation of impunity –that nobody is watching us when we’re on a cell phone or a computer– can lead some people to do things that they wouldn’t do in the real world. Insults, slander, messages that attack someone’s honor, stalking, etc. are crimes, whether committed in the street, on Twitter, or in social media forums. People think that when it’s done from a computer or a cell phone, nobody is going to know who it is. But they’re wrong: on internet there’s a trail that can be followed.
Some of the most frequent crimes committed on the Web have to do with intellectual property. Nowadays everyone knows that it’s illegal to download a film, but not everyone knows that taking a photo or a drawing off internet for use at work or in a report can also be a crime against intellectual property if we don’t have the express permission of the author. People think that if the photo has appeared online it can be used freely. Nothing farther from the truth. And it’s no excuse to say, “when I use the photo I indicate the source.” Citing the source doesn’t authorize us to download an image so as to re-use or modify it.
In this sense, special mention should be made of memes. Creating or sending these humorous images that go viral can also constitute a crime because in many cases the author of the original image or the people who appear haven’t given their consent for this distribution.
Some of the most common apps in the internet are the ones for messaging, and here the star is WhatsApp. And this is one of the platforms where the most crimes are committed, many of them related to privacy and revealing secrets. What are the crimes people commit on WhatsApp without knowing it? Here are some of them:
- Adding someone to a WhatsApp group without asking them first. By doing this, that person’s personal information, such as their telephone, is available to the other members of the group. This would be committing a crime.
- Sharing data capture. This very common practice is a crime if the capture is of a conversation by third parties in which we do not take part.
- Using WhatsApp if you’re younger than 16. No, by the terms and conditions of this app, people under 16 cannot use it. Lying about your age can also be a crime (this also applies to other social media like Facebook or Instagram).
A common crime on social media, which people commit unconsciously, is to identify other people without their consent. If you’re someone who uploads a photo to Facebook or Instagram with the text “partying with @so-and-so” (without first getting his permission), you should know that you’re committing a crime.
Crimes against privacy and revealing secrets are also regularly committed when using email. Just as happens with the WhatsApp groups, we should be very careful when sending emails to several people. If these people have no connection among themselves, we should use the blind carbon copy field so as not to reveal their email addresses. It’s very common to find groups and message chains which use ‘Reply all’ or all the addressees are identified in ‘Reply’ or ‘CC’ instead of using the hidden copy.
There are other, less common crimes that people commit without knowing it, including:
Sharing a Netflix account among several people. Do you and some friends get together to pay a single account and share the service? Bad. You’re all committing a crime.
Checking the cell phone of your child or mate. It’s sad, but there are still some men who feel they have the right to check the messages of their mate. The subject of parents checking the cell phone of their child is more complex. It might be considered as education or tutelage, but that doesn’t cancel the fact that you might be committing a crime, with jail sentences of between one and four years.
Sexting and revealing personal information. Distributing photos and videos of a personal nature could mean up to five years in prison (three years if you were only redistributing and have not taken part in obtaining the photos and video).