Is it a Crime to Snoop on Your Spouse?
Should it be considered a crime to read your spouse’s email?
That’s what some prosecutors in Michigan believe. Relying on a legal statute typically used to prosecute crimes such as identity theft, they have charged 33-year-old Leon Walker with a felony, after he logged onto a laptop in the home he shared with his wife, Clara.
Why did Leon use her computer? According to reports, he used her password to access her Gmail account, because he suspected she was having an affair. Indeed, he found out, she was. And what did playing detective get him? A trial date this month where he could be sent to prison for up to five years. Prosecutors insist that by snooping through his wife’s email, Walker was committing a felony.
Seriously? Reading your spouse’s email is now supposedly a crime?
Well, in truth, Clara and Leon were going through divorce proceedings at the time the snooping took place last summer. Clara says she had a right to privacy, and she felt “violated“ by Leon’s actions, attempting to discover things about her new personal life.
But they were still sharing a residence, and Leon was still regularly using that very computer. According to Leon, Clara also kept all of the passwords to her accounts in a book she stored next to the computer, an allegation Clara denies, so it wasn’t as if he had to do something really underhanded to access them. Leon claims he felt obligated to look through her Gmail account because he was worried about the affair (it turned out she was having an affair with her second husband) and the effect it might have on their daughter and his stepson.
We all hate hackers who illegally try to access our private online information. Is it reasonable to consider Leon just another criminal hacker? Or does someone have a legitimate right to know about his spouse’s online activities, even while going through a divorce?
Actually, Leon’s upcoming trial could have a lot of repercussions. It’s estimated that about 45 percent of divorce cases involve some online snooping: gathering emails, reading Facebook postings, and so on. But divorces are civil cases. No one has ever heard of a criminal case getting filed because someone sneaked onto his or her spouse’s computer — until now.
I look forward to reading your comments.