Electronic Spying and Tracking in Family Law

Unauthorized electronic spying and tracking is illegal and can subject one to criminal and civil penalties.  There is not a special exception when the conduct relates to a person’s spouse.  The use of hidden cameras, tracking devices, spyware, and listening devices can result in serious or even criminal consequences.

Recording the conversation of another person without their consent is against the law.  Tracking another person with a GPS device is likewise illegal unless there is consent.  A person’s consent to being recorded may make the recording admissible in court.  Using a webcam or other cameras in a situation where the target has an expectation of privacy is also generally illegal.  Software (spyware) surreptitiously installed onto another person’s computer or cell phone is illegal.  Spyware can make stalking surprisingly easy by simply viewing emails, calendars, etc.  Spyware can be installed with physical access to a computer or by remotely using sophisticated emails, e-greeting cards, website links, or even a photo of a fried in the form of an attachment.

The computer owner will generally not know if spyware has been installed on a computer.  It will not be displayed in “programs.”  Spyware can change its installation date and its name.  An expert is generally needed to detect it.  An expert’s analysis can cost $3,000 to $5,000.  Even if spyware is detected, it may not be possible to connect the installation of the spyware to a particular person.  Anti-spyware software programs are available but are not always reliable.

Spyware (mobilespy or flexispy) can be installed on a smart phone with physical access of the phone.  These can capture texts, calls, and even allow listening to real-time conversations.  Like spyware on computers, it is difficult to detect spyware on smart phones.

A hardware device known as a “keylogger” can be attached to a computer.  These are used to record all key strokes made on the computer.  The information can be used to reconstruct what was typed, emails, web searches, passwords, etc.

“Family Locator” services available through Verizon or Sprint can show the user someone’s location, activity, and departure times through a GPS tracker.

If the facts make it appear that someone is being tracked or that someone knows too much about a person’s activities, the issues should be discussed with a lawyer.