It’s hard to tell in the age of reality entertainment whether affairs have become more commonplace, or if they’ve simply been spotlighted by entertainment hungry news media. From Tiger Woods down to those couples who get caught on the reality show, Cheaters, every newscast seems to bring another infidelity to light.
Were sexual indiscretions rampant 30-years ago? Probably; however, they didn’t rank as headline-leading news at the 6 PM hour. The ironic thing about marital – or any – sexual affair is that suspicion of an affair is fine, but gathering solid proof of one often puts the spurned partner on the wrong side of the law.
Although morally frowned upon, it’s not illegal to have an affair; however, using some of today’s micro-technology to ferret-out a cheating partner may lead to jail time. When privacy meets infidelity, it’s a slippery slope, and often the ‘innocent victim’ of an affair is often the ‘guilty intruder’ when the law’s involved.
Checking credit card receipts, pockets, and written notes or phone numbers is all legit, as is ‘accidentally’ picking up the phone when the significant other is on it, for how can anyone prove it wasn’t an accident? Electronic snooping, however, is a whole different playing field that’s regulated by both State and Federal Law.
The easiest ways to find out usually aren’t legal. What type of activities could land a snooping partner in jail?
Using a password to illegally snoop through personal email files. In most states, email is considered private conversation, subject to “reasonable expectations” that what’s written between parties on email is protected, even in the case of a husband and wife.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that a spurned Michigan spouse is learning the hard way. The husband is a computer professional, and when signs arose that his wife was cheating, he accessed her email to find evidence. Unfortunately for him, he now faces felony charges that could land him in prison for up to 5 years.
Likewise, accessing any private computer account–life Facebook–is illegal. Checking someone’s phone for the numbers they’ve called or reading their text messages can go either way depending on the circumstances. If the courts can prove that the account was hacked with a password and not discovered by chance, it’s an invasion of privacy.
There are many ways to track another’s activity, including video recording, GPS tracking devices that are attached to cars or hidden among personal belongings, computer software that captures keystrokes, cell phone software that tracks all communications (SMS, Email, phone calls, and messenger communication) and audio recorders.
Using these devices can be against the law, however, and what’s good in one state is often illegal in another. For instance, in Illinois, any video or audio recording of government officials without their knowledge in a public is illegal, despite the fact that Illinois’ citizens do not enjoy the same protection. In other states, anything seen by the naked eye in the open is usually legit.
What’s not okay? Places where we expect privacy: bedrooms, bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, hotel rooms, certain office spaces, doctor’s offices, dental offices, etc. It’s illegal to record in these places while outside of them as well: think of the Erin Andrews stalking case; so, it is not legal to record through peepholes, windows, etc.
The law is vague on tracking devices (GPS) for private citizens, so ostensibly, one could track another’s movement. However, be ready for a fight if the case goes to court; there’s no precedence, and judges have ruled on both sides. If it makes it easier to determine whether legal or not, think about law enforcement: Federal and State investigators have to have a warrant, or permission from the court, to track suspects using GPS.
It is legal, though, to “follow that cab;” “tailing” another person is also legal, but this raises the ugly specter of stalking, and it may turn the tables of a relationship quickly. It’s not legal to snoop computers although it is legal for parents to monitor a child’s online activity, or employer’s their employee’s computer interaction. What about cell phone eavesdropping?
Using cell phone eavesdropping software can be, according to FederalCriminalLawyer.us, a Federal felony. ”Under Title 18, Section 2511 of the United States Code, it is a felony to record a conversation unless at least one party to the conversation consents. The crime is called eavesdropping, and a person found guilty can be sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined $250,000.