The Wall Street Journal recently ran an excellent article discussing the expanding use of spy technology in keeping tabs on wandering spouses. “A Spy-Gear Arms Race Transforms Modern Divorce.”

New technology allows folks to place GPS trackers on cars, leave hidden cameras around the house and install internet and e-mail monitoring software all for hardly more than it costs to have a nice night out on the town.  The era of hiring private investigators to snoop is over, now the common man can now play Sherlock Homes just by sitting down at his home PC.

 

Be careful though. The legality of interspousal spying is still an evolving area of law and could lead to serious criminal charges. In Chester County, Pennsylvania, a father of two is being charged with felony intercept of communications and unlawful use of a computer for allegedly installing a $97 spyware program on the family computer. Though the criminal charges may yet be dismissed, it is a cautionary tale to snooping spouses that a reasonable expectation of privacy exists in a marriage and that you need to respect your spouse’s private e-mail, mail and other communications records. Criminal charges are unlikely to result when the snooping occurs with documents and e-mail accounts that are left open or are in plain view. The danger lies in prying into another’s personal affairs where some sort of security or safekeeping measure has been employed evidencing a desire to keep those matters private.

 

So the next time you consider opening up your spouse’s private e-mail account or searching for texts on their iphone without their permission, think twice, you may be breaking the law.

We tend to think that the use of computer software available on the internet could not possibly result in criminal charges brought against the party using it.  But on Friday October 7 a Court in Delaware County found a man guilty of using Eblaster “spyware” to intercept his Father’s electronic mail because he did not approve of his father’s social relationship with a woman.

We have noted earlier that Pennsylvania has a highly restrictive wiretapping law. The statute is many years old and as such, has not kept pace with explosion of electronic equipment and software intended to capture written messages whether published as email or text messaging. But, suffice to say that if you are using a device to intercept any form of electronic communication, you are in territory where you may be committing a crime no matter how pure you perceive your motives. I f you feel that you must do this for whatever reason, it would be wise to consult with an attorney familiar with both state and federal laws governing these subjects before you begin your project.