Divorce is difficult. There’s no doubt about it. Even when both parties come to a mutual agreement that a marriage should end, and even in the best of circumstances, it can be painful. This is even more true if there has been some sort of behavior in the marriage that has been hurtful and harmful – like an extramarital affair, or a hidden addiction or behavior. In these cases, the spouse who has been hurt or who suspects misbehavior will likely feel the urge to try to find information to confirm or deny those suspicions. That’s simply human nature. In these circumstances, there are certainly plenty of options available in our high-tech, digitally connected world. One tempting choice is to use a keylogger to spy on your spouse.
What is a keylogger? Essentially, a keylogger is a tool that you download onto your spouse’s computer which allows you to spy on your spouse as he or she types on the keyboard. It records every keystroke and saves the data for review by the person who installed the program. This means that even if someone thinks their accounts are password-protected and their browsing history is private when in fact, the keylogger might be tracking every key, every password, every sentence that is typed. There are two basic types of keyloggers:
- Software keyloggers: This type of keylogger is installed remotely on a computer, and is accessed remotely by the person who installed it. These types of keyloggers are very easy to access, even from a remote location, and the person whose keystrokes are being recorded will typically have no idea that it is happening at all.
- Hardware keyloggers: Hardware keyloggers are typically installed as part of the computer itself, usually as firmware, or as a USB device that plugs into the computer. This type of keylogger requires access to the computer to see what was typed.
Understandably, if you suspect that your spouse may be cheating on you or engaging in some other form of harmful behavior that he or she is trying to hide, installing a keylogger can be a very tempting idea, to say the least. After all, you can gain often quite a bit of information about someone by having access to their emails and social media accounts, or by reviewing their browsing history.
Not only are keyloggers tempting to use – they’re also fairly easy to find and install. A simple Google search will reveal several options. The question though – is should you use one? The short answer is – think it over carefully and consult your attorney before taking any action. Both federal and state laws can impose significant consequences on those who access the private communications of others without their authorization. These include:
- The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA): This federal law makes it a crime to access someone else’s private communications if they do not give authorization for you to do so. It covers all types of electronic communications – including cell phones, computer use, email and social media accounts and more. If your spouse has not permitted you to access their communications, this law might cause you to incur significant consequences if you do so.
- The North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act: In North Carolina, the North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act, like its federal counterpart, makes it illegal to seek access to another person’s computer, phone, or network without authorization.
- State Tort Law: North Carolina also has several tort laws that are intended to protect privacy. One such law is known as “Intrusion upon Seclusion” – this essentially means that invading someone else’s privacy is recognized in North Carolina as valid grounds for a lawsuit.
If you are tempted to spy on your spouse, the first and most important thing to do is to speak to your attorney first. While the urge to spy is understandable, especially if you have reasons to suspect your spouse, you want to tread cautiously. You could find yourself in serious legal trouble quite quickly – and that’s the last thing you need when you’re already facing a difficult divorce process. Your attorney will be able to advise you as to whether or not the actions your considering might have legal consequences. He or she might also be able to let you know what other options you might have to gain information about your spouse in a lawful way.
If you find yourself contemplating divorce, or in the midst of a divorce process and you have questions about keyloggers and spying, or about any other aspect of the process, the best step you can take is finding a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to help you through it. At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here for you, and we would love to have the opportunity to help. Call us at any time.