Email tracing: Finding out who is behind anonymous email accounts

Over the past few years, we have seen increasing numbers of cases involving requests to trace anonymous email accounts. Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, and countless other firms offer these sorts of free and anonymous accounts. Sometimes, the email headers have information that can help identify a city from where the emails were sent.

But increasingly, different databases are aggregating data in such a way that we can tie an IP address from the harassing email to a physical address; and then, using a 3rd database, confirm who resides at such an address and was likely the sender of the harassing emails. This is due to the practice of certain companies that log IP addresses and link them to physical addresses of customers who order items on the internet (and then sell the data to 3rd parties). As time passes, these databases are growing exponentially in power and scope--the Matrix of movie fame.

Following up with in-person interviews of the individuals, serving them a subpoena or summoning them to court usually solves the problem.