Divorce Spyware: I Spy With My Little Eye

DSC00275_1 In many family law cases suspicion and lack of trust permeates divorce proceedings. It has become routine to have new divorce clients ask about the legal rules regarding spyware, computer passwords, telephone taps, and other forms of clandestine information-gathering tools.

In the old days, divorcing parties hired private detectives to ferret out damaging information about their estranged spouses. When no-fault divorce was introduced in Canada, investigators found their work drying up as it didn’t matter whether a spouse had been unfaithful.

However, with advances in technology and the proliferation of “Spy” stores, anybody
can readily access hidden “nanny” cameras, telephone bugs and computer screeners, or privately install a GPS on an unwitting spouse’s vehicle.

Gone are the simpler days when a wife simply located her husband’s desk keys or office pass to make an after-hours entry in order to surreptitiously remove or photocopy important documents and generally snoop for information that might help her and hurt him.

Even without sophisticated spy tools it is not difficult to track a spouse’s activities by monitoring their emails, text messages, credit card purchases, bank transactions, Facebook page, etc. Most separated spouses do not immediately change their passwords and frequently spouses can access important information this way.

But is it legal? That’s where it gets dicey…If the family computer is shared by both husband and wife with a single password, it may be offensive to spy on one’s spouse, but probably not illegal.

But even without a computer password, illegal hacking is easier than you think with today’s sophisticated devices. You may recall that journalists for one of Britain’s leading newspapers were hacking phones and computers of celebrities, crime victims, and the royal family, a situation that resulted in the newspaper eventually folding amid embarrassment and scandal.

What about putting a tap on a spouse’s car phone? That’s a no-no. Canada’s privacy law provides that so long as one of the two parties being recorded consents there is no problem and of course, if you record your conversations with your spouse you have obviously consented. However, if you place a bug on your wife’s car telephone, you are recording her conversations with others, yes, maybe even her boyfriend, but those parties have not consented.

What about installing a hidden tracker on your spouse’s car? Again, if the car is in joint names, you can do as you like, but I would be cautious with a GPS on a vehicle that does not belong to you. Besides potential privacy violations, you may be faced with criminal charges such as stalking or harassment.

The question you must ask is whether the evidence you need to get is worth the risk of a privacy violation or worse? That’s a decision for you and your family lawyer to make.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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6 thoughts on “Divorce Spyware: I Spy With My Little Eye

  1. I took a Continuing Legal Education Course on “The Internet and Spying” in 2009 in Vancouver, BC. The presenters set out that spying on the online banking and other personal information of a person is easy and inexpensive and can be carried out by hackers, spyware, and Trojan horse programs. The most common offenders are not large corporations spying on each other like Apply and IBM or Kinder Morgan Energy and EQT Midstream Partners. The most common people spying on each other are those involved in domestic relationships. The most frequent culprit is a spouse who has separated and decides to spy on his or her spouses by access not only their spouse’s computer but also the computer belonging to the family lawyer of their spouse. http://www.gilsig.ca

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  3. This makes sense, but I guess faith and trust are what’s necessary. Know your partner on your couple days before you get rush on the wedding altar. By the way, where do you suggest to buy those spyware gadgets?

  4. Having an affair nowadays are very rampant. And I guess this guide of yours is a great help. I commend you for sharing this knowledge. Anyways, is there an free anti-spyware that you could suggest unto us? Would be happy to hear it exactly from you. Best wishes! 🙂

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