– March 10, 2006:

Jacob Citrin was once employed by International Airport Centers and given a laptop to use in his company’s real estate related business. The work consisted of identifying “potential acquisition targets.”

At some point, Citrin quit IAC and decided to continue in the same business for himself, a choice that IAC claims violated his employment contract.

Normally that would have been a routine business dispute. But the twist came when Citrin dutifully returned his work laptop–and IAC tried to undelete files on it to prove he did something wrong.

IAC couldn’t. It turned out that (again according to IAC) Citrin had used a “secure delete” program to make sure that the files were not just deleted, but overwritten and unrecoverable.

The 7th Circuit made two remarkable leaps. First, the judges said that deleting files from a laptop counts as “damage.” Second, they ruled that Citrin’s implicit “authorization” evaporated when he (again, allegedly) chose to go into business for himself and violate his employment contract.

The scary thing is that his employment contract gave him the right to delete data off the laptop before returning it!

…his employment contract authorized him to “return or destroy” data in the laptop when he ceased being employed by IAC…

  1. Heathcole says:

    Wow, now thats scary. Remind me to never piss off “the man”…or better yet remind me never to be employed by the man.

  2. James says:

    Read the judge’s ruling. It’s *way* out of touch.

  3. Aphex says:

    This is scary because I am about to do the same thing. I am leaving my current job for another and the laptop has had some of my personal information on it. I am using a secure wipe to wipe the HDD before reinstalling the original ghost image. I wonder if this is going to get me into some trouble

  4. Improbus says:

    I NEVER NEVER NEVER have personal files on my company laptop. I keep them on my personal USB drive.

  5. Coriantumr says:

    There has been some concerns about the Sovietization of the US but I gather this is real proof. I’m sorry if I caugth you at a bad time, tovarich!!

  6. Raff says:

    What a bunch of crap. format c: /fu

  7. Shane says:

    This case should be appealed but it is unlikely that the Supremes will agree to hear it. It’s worth a shot though.

  8. Thomas says:

    On the one hand I’m stunned and on the other hand it is yet another example of how judges are out of touch with technology.

    If deleting files is damage, wouldn’t adding files also be damage? If anything, I think this guy needs a better lawyer.

  9. Mr. Fusion says:


    It took me almost five minutes to compose my self. You are a true genius, I’m still chuckling.

    I was thinking about just a strong magnet sitting near the HD. That would scramble some of the HD but not all. Leave enough to to show something but not enough to boot. No screw driver needed, or sock. But that was brilliant.

  10. Sounds The Alarm says:

    Now all you conservitives out there say judges are liberal activists. The reality is – They’re just stupid.

  11. david says:

    Homo sapien is a wily creature. The way to overcome a rule is to use a rule. For instance, if a person knew he had personals files on his laptop and the law says you can delete them, well then the smart thing to do is for it to be “stolen” somewhere. There’s no law against losing or having it stolen. Most large companies will cover the cost of a stolen laptop. You know, it wasn’t your fault. 😉

  12. Smith says:

    I get the feeling something important wasn’t communicated in the link. Why did this company even care? Vengeance?

    Or were the files deleted the list of “potential acquisition targets” he was paid to generate? If that were so, then would this be any different than a programmer spending six months writing code, then deleting the company’s only copy of it the day he quit? Would that not be considered the destruction of private property?

    What prompted all three judges to rule against him?

    Or it could have been as Thomas stated: he had a really bad lawyer!

  13. joshua says:

    I didn’t see anything about only 3 judges ruling. If thats the case, then the full court didn’t hear the case, so he has the right to appeal to the full 7th circuit. Next, the 7th circuit isn’t exactly known for it’s Liberalism, but is known for it’s total lack of business or technical knowledge. It usually deals in murder, rape amd general mayham cases, and the occasional farm issue. Which is probably why this company started the case under the 7th’s jurisdiction.

  14. riderz49 says:

    If anyone took the the time to read the court’s opinion, they might see that it’s not really an unreasonable interpretation, but rather a reasonable interpretation of an unreasonable law. the fault lies with Congress, not the court.

  15. Smith says:


    You are right. But if you want to look at truly unreasonable law, you need to look at environmental law. About 5 years ago, a man was sentenced to three years in federal prison for moving dirt from one end of his 180-acre property to the other end in order to fill in a swamp. (I remember my father doing the same thing 30 years ago — thank goodness that preceded Wetlands law.)

    The judge in that case thought is was grossly unjust that sentencing guidelines forced him to impose a stiffer sentence on the property owner than he could impose on an illegal alien caught smuggling drugs into the country.


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