How does a potential plaintiff find out whether you have enough money to make you an attractive lawsuit target? Thanks to the Internet, a lawyer can find out everything he needs to know.

It’s now well understood that Internet search technology allows virtually unlimited access to your most sensitive personal and financial information. Specifically, detailed information describing your real estate and business interests, the name of your bank and brokerage firm, your account balances, and your transaction history can be accessed and assembled without your knowledge or permission. Now, anyone can find out what you have and how much you are worth.

These capabilities have been developed and advanced mostly during the digital revolution of the past decade. Before the Internet, separate bits and pieces of information about your life were scattered in dusty file drawers and county records around the country. Your birth certificate, driving records, insurance file, marriage licenses, and loan applications were maintained or stored in written files, record books, or sometimes the computer at the office where the records were kept. Information could not be accessed from outside the office where the records were stored.

An investigator attempting to assemble information about your life had to travel from one county courthouse to another, stand in line, search through library archives and public records, and hope to come up with some useful information. The process of gathering personal information was a laborious and expensive job.

But all of that has changed. The scraps of paper and the written records have been converted into an electronic form which can be stored and searched by a computer. And these computers and databases have been connected through the Internet so that the information in any one computer can be accessed and searched from any other computer. If somebody wants to find out information about you, a single query will hunt through billions of documents stored on thousands of interconnected databases to produce a frighteningly thorough profile of your life. An investigator can now sit in the comfort of his or her office with a computer, a modem, and a cup of coffee in one hand, and in minutes, access everything he or she wants to know about you.

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