Online Piracy and Why It’s Illegal

Digging For Dirt? Stay Out Of Your Spouse's Email, Because Snooping Is A Crime.

Are you tempted to sneak into your spouse's email account? Do you suspect your spouse of having an affair? Or, do you just want to know what secrets are being kept? What if you're already going through a divorce? There might be information in that email that you could use to gain an advantage during the divorce (or maybe take a little revenge). If you're tempted at all, the best thing to do is stuff your hands in your pockets and walk away, because reading your spouse's email can result in criminal charges if you get caught.

It's Called Hacking.

Breaking into someone else's private email account is considered hacking -- even if you just lifted the password off of the sticky note he or she keeps under the keyboard. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) prohibits intentionally accessing someone's stored electronic communication (among other things) without authorization.

The fact that you use a shared computer or that the password was right in front of you probably doesn't matter. Both federal and state laws criminalize the behavior. While the laws were put in place to defend against serious computer crimes and not directed at warring spouses, don't assume that the laws can't be used against you for spousal snooping.

What If You've Had Permission Before?

Maybe your spouse has given you permission in the past to get into his or her email. That would seem to get you around the ECPA laws. However, before you go ahead and look, you want to consult with your attorney to make sure that you're on solid legal footing, rather than risk a felony.

Also, remember that permission in the past doesn't equal permission in the present. If your spouse told you his or her password a year ago in order to have you look for an important email, that doesn't equal permission to pour over his or her private communications.

Be Careful What Else You Do.

For a few bucks, you can purchase software that enables you to listen to your spouse's phone calls, intercept his or her texts and emails, and turn his or her cell phone into a tracking device. You may find out everything that there is to know, but you might also find yourself charged with stalking, even if you aren't charged under hacking laws.

Software like that is always sold with disclaimers that place the responsibility for their legal use directly on the consumer/user. That means that just because the product is available for sale it might not be legal to use.

Is All Internet Communication Protected?

You can certainly use copies of emails if they got to your hands accidentally or during a period of time when you had your spouse's clear permission to be in his or her account. You can also scour anything that he or she has made public on social media sites.

Anything further, however, should be something you do only after you seek the advice of your attorney. As anxious as you may be to know what your spouse may be hiding from you, don't compound the trouble in your life by opening yourself up to a criminal charge. For more information, talk to a lawyer, like those at the Law Offices Of Timothy J Ormes.