'Embarrassed' Gun Suspect Sues Microsoft After FBI Finds Sex Videos On His PC

Despite efforts to keep the data private, FBI lab agents were able to access the files by making a mirror image of the hard drive.

Paul McDougall, Editor At Large, InformationWeek

March 2, 2007

2 Min Read

A man awaiting trial for alleged gun crimes is suing Microsoft for privacy violations after FBI agents seized his home computer during a raid and found files containing sexually explicit videos of him and his girlfriend and evidence that he frequented pornographic Web sites.

Michael Alan Crooker, currently in jail in Connecticut, says security features advertised by Microsoft and its business partners should have kept federal agents from accessing the files on his PC. In court papers filed this week in Massachusetts Superior Court, Crooker says he "suffered great embarrassment" as a result of Microsoft's failure to keep the FBI's prying eyes off his computer.

He is suing the software maker for $200,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Crooker purchased a Compaq Presario PC loaded with Windows XP, Internet Explorer, and several security utilities in 2002 at a Circuit City in Holyoke, Mass. Crooker, in court papers, says he "felt secure in Circuit City's claims of impenetrability and security."

Things took a turn, however, when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents raided Crooker's home in June 2004 as part of an investigation into the sale of an air rifle equipped with a silencer and seized his computer. Unable to crack the PC's security features, the agents sent it to the FBI's Cryptologic and Electronic Analysis unit, court records say.

At the FBI lab, agents were able to access Crooker's files by making a mirror image of the hard drive. Among the files, they found a video showing Crooker and his girlfriend having sex, his medical records, family photographs, and correspondence between Crooker and his attorneys. They also found Internet history files that showed Crooker's fondness for pornographic Web sites.

Crooker says he had set Internet Explorer to delete his Internet history every five days. "Any day beyond those parameters is supposed to be permanently deleted and is not supposed to be recoverable," Crooker says in the lawsuit. He also claims Compaq's DriveLock security system should have prevented the FBI from accessing his hard drive.

In the court papers, Crooker says he already has reached settlements with Hewlett-Packard, which owns the Compaq brand, and Circuit City.

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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