Can you spy on your spouse? GPS trackers, spyware, key logger programs, and hidden cameras are changing divorce, making it easy to become an amateur spy, and making it even easier to land you in trouble.
The CIA Home Kit
As NPR reports, couples are turning to the latest technology to spy on each other as their marriages fall apart.
New digital spy tools are cheap and easy to use — from something as simple as the Find My iPhone feature to spyware that can be installed in a spouse’s computer, phone, or even a car.
Welcome to divorce in the 21st century — how much privacy you’re entitled to is an open question. Cases involving domestic spying are not unique, and are becoming more common as the technology gets cheaper and easier to use.
Digital spying is changing divorce as we know it.
The tools are abundant. Clients use it in an effort to stay in control after a separation or to gather evidence of extra-marital affairs or drug abuse. But the laws can be murky.
There may be problems with becoming your own James Bond type spy. I’ve written about domestic violence issues before. Many people are unfamiliar with cyberstalking statutes in Florida, and that cyberstalking is grounds for an injunction.
In Florida, cyberstalking is also a crime, and it means conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.
Cyberstalking can involve communications over the Internet like: email, instant messages, text messaging, blogging, website or online forum postings, and social media posts.
Florida also has an aggravated cyberstalking law for protection against people who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking.
Partners in breakups sometimes install spyware on computers or phones in order to spy on their soon-to-be ex. Once installed, people can see every incoming and outgoing message from the target’s phone, Web searches, even keystrokes and passwords.
The legality of tracking technology is messy. For example, parents can put spyware on a child’s phone or a home computer. But, putting it on a spouse’s or a partner’s computer or iPhone without consent is generally illegal.
Florida has a strong Constitutional right to privacy. Florida enacted laws to ensure each party to a conversation has an expectation of privacy from interception by another party to the conversation.
Be careful about becoming your own spy. Florida has made it illegal for a person to intercept wire, oral, or electronic communications. And, trial courts can and do exclude from evidence electronic communications illegally intercepted.
Back at Langley
As the NPR article reports, the messages from an ex-husband to his ex-wife can be unsettling:
“I know all of the ways you’ve described me to your friend.”
Unfortunately, the ex-wife went to an Apple store, but didn’t look for the spyware; instead they got her a brand-new phone. That meant that the evidence went along with the phone.
In 2012, the last time the Justice Department attempted to quantify stalking, it estimated that 1.5% of all adults in the U.S. were victims.
That figure more than doubled — to 3.3 percent — for people who were divorced or separated.
The NPR article is here.