Is Your Spouse Spying on You and Is It Legal?

Sophya Qureshi Raza

By Sophya Qureshi Raza

Updated 2/18/2014

I recently had a case where the husband, unbeknownst to wife, had downloaded “spy phone software” directly to her cell phone. This software enabled the husband to listen to his wife’s actual phone calls. It turned her cell phone into a GPS tracker, intercepted and read her texts, email messages and call logs, and allowed him to use her cell phone to bug a room.

This software, available at an annual cost of anywhere from $39.99 to $349 depending on the features purchased, is specifically targeted towards spouses who want to “catch” their cheating spouse.

In very, very tiny print at the bottom of its home page, this company states:

“It is the responsibility of the user…to ascertain, and obey, all applicable laws in their country in regard to the use of…for ‘sneaky purposes’. If you are in doubt, consult your local attorney before using…. By downloading and installing…, you represent that…will be used in only a lawful manner. Logging other people’s SMS messages & other phone activity or installing…on another person’s phone without their knowledge can be considered as an illegal activity in your country.”

This language should be in ALL CAPS at the very top of the page in a huge font! I think that in most states it would be impossible to use this software “in only a lawful manner.” In the state of Missouri, you may face consequences, at both the state and federal level, for intercepting a person’s email. In addition, in Missouri it is illegal to record or listen or record phone calls to which you are not a party.

I argued in this case that the husband’s actions in tracking wife with GPS constituted “stalking” under Missouri’s adult abuse law. And the judge agreed. Several states have taken this position as well. Not only is this stalking, but again, the husband’s actions may be subject to civil and criminal penalties for the interception of the emails.

What is perhaps most frightening is the only reason the wife discovered that the software had been downloaded on her phone was because she found the actual receipt of the download purchase made by the husband under a sofa cushion. If she hadn’t found this, she would have had absolutely no idea that her privacy was being invaded in such an atrocious manner. The website boasts that a person only need access to the “target” phone for the initial software download. After the download, all settings can be changed remotely. The husband’s installation of this software on his wife’s phone allowed him to receive via email of all of her text messages, call logs and emails, even if she deleted them from her phone.

The moral of this story: beware of websites that are selling this type of software. Just because it’s for sale, doesn’t mean it is legal to use. And don’t let your cell phone out of your sight.

Posted by Attorney Sophya Qureshi Raza. Raza practices family law where she effectively guides clients through dissolution of marriage, modifications of prior judgments, and resolving child custody and paternity disputes. She also helps families with legal guardianships and conservatorships for the elderly and disabled.

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