Apps, Spy Gear and Teddy Bears: Technology’s Role in Modern Divorces

The Wall Street Journal article, “A Spy-Gear Arms Race Transforms Modern Divorce,” put a spotlight on how spouses are utilizing modern technology to discover if their significant other is engaging in morally questionable activities, such as Internet pornography, accruing credit card debt, or most commonly – cheating.

The article highlighted a husband who installed spyware on his wife’s cellphone, the family computer, and a GPS on her car. What was once limited to the top-secret federal organizations is now accessible to anyone with a credit card and a twinge of jealousy.

According to electronic companies, “nannycams” and GPS tracking device sales are soaring and continue to be on the rise. Spyware programs for computers, which are as detailed as catching every keystroke and internet search, can cost less than $100 and a GPS tracker costs less than $200.

Curiosity or Stalking?

However, not all snoopers get off scot-free after poking around in their spouse’s life. The husband in the aforementioned case was sentenced to 30 days in jail for stalking his former wife. Privacy and stalking laws vary from state to state, and Minnesota didn’t make the husband’s side.

The distinguishing line between being naturally curious about your spouse’s activities and exhibiting stalking behavior can be a messy, gray area. Even something as simple as flipping through someone’s texts can be considered an invasion of privacy and used against a spouse in a divorce case.

“Stalking laws differ by state, but usually the main element is that there is fear” felt by the victim, said Cindy Southworth of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Anyone who uses technology for spying purposes is creating a risk for themselves that they might be charged with breaking federal wiretapping, cybercrime, or trespassing laws. The same article mentions a case in Nebraska of a mother who embedded a listening device in her daughter’s teddy bear to record the father. She was found guilty of violating the Federal Wiretap Act.

Apps Used for Spying and How to Block Them

Some lawyers state that nearly 80 percent of divorce cases involve smartphones or computers, so it’s no surprise that people are turning towards seemingly good-intentioned apps to legally spy on loved ones’ digital activity.

Trick or Tracker, created for parents to keep tabs on their children, sends text alerts when the phone has moved out of a designated area. mSpy goes beyond recording a device’s call history, texts, contacts, phone, videos, browser history, and social media. Once installed on a device, outside users can block designated incoming calls, control apps, and lock the phone from afar.

Smartphone users can retroactively block some of the snooping with Vaulty Stocks and Best Secret Folder that keep pictures and videos in a protected online file.

Invading your spouse’s privacy shouldn’t be taken lightly as you could be flirting with illegal activity, putting your marriage in jeopardy, or violating your own moral compass. While you may have to secure some information on a spouse’s infidelity, Internet addictions, or other wrongdoings if you are pursuing a divorce, I urge you to exercise caution. These are issues we deal with every day, and while we hope your marriage never comes to it, we are here to offer you guidance, if you need it.