How Technology & Surveillance Can Affect Divorce


Remote technologies and social media apps are constantly updating and improving. In the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, more people than ever are heading online for all sorts of friendly gatherings, business meetings, shopping experiences, seeking advice and information, family events, and much more. But before you dive headfirst into new tech and apps to make lockdown less frustrating, it helps to be reminded that everything you do in cyberspace can be found and used against you in family law courts.

Spousal Spying with Siri

We have all heard stories of major corporations using their in-home smart tech to spy on people and learn about their personal information. While it is still unclear what a billionaire would want to gain from knowing your child’s softball schedule, it is true that a deceitful spouse or ex-spouse could have much to gain from sensitive information you convey to digital assistants like Alexa and Siri.

If your spouse still has access to your digital assistants even while you are going through a divorce or legal separation, then they can potentially access data saved by those technologies. They could still have administrative access that allows them to contact the product manufacturer and retrieve copies of collected data and audio files. For example, if your spouse wanted to degrade your image and make you seem unfit for child custody, then they might bring up data records to show you placing numerous orders for alcohol using your digital assistant, regardless of how innocent it may have been.

Other Methods of Cyberspace Spying

Of course, digital assistants are not the only way that your spouse can try to spy on you using the latest and greatest technology. If they are clever and tech-savvy enough, then they could have various means to access files that you once thought were private.

Your spouse could spy on you by utilizing:

  • Shared email, text, and telephone accounts
  • Dummy social media accounts to look like a stranger
  • Vehicle GPS tracking data
  • “Nanny cam” or doorbell cam footage

Direct Ways of Spying Through Technology

Using remote technologies, your ex-spouse can find clever ways to keep tabs on you. But they don’t need to be “remote” to spy on what you are doing. They can rely on more direct methods to pry into your personal life and attempt to find evidence of negligence or wrongdoing that could impact your divorce proceedings.

For example, your ex could just log into your email accounts if you haven’t changed your password yet. Or they could use keystroke spyware on your computer that tracks every key you press, effectively letting them shadow you whenever you use the computer. Antivirus software can sometimes catch keystroke programs, but not always, because installing these software programs legitimately isn’t seen as a virus. The safer option is to use a personal computer that your spouse cannot access if you are able.

Can Your Ex Monitor Your Phone Calls?

Even though you have probably reduced making phone calls as regularly as you once did, it might be time to pick up the old habit again because it is difficult for your spouse to spy on your phone calls. Landlines need to be tapped or “bugged” directly, which basically won’t happen unless you live in a Hollywood movie or your ex is a talented electrical engineer with a devious side. Smartphones are also difficult to “tap” because the internal operating systems resist any sort of malware.

The only thing that might happen to your smartphone is that your spouse could “jailbreak” it. Jailbreaking a phone is essentially a factory reset of the device that overrides the manufacturer’s programming and instructions, turning the phone into a blank slate. People often jailbreak iPhones to run Android operating systems, for example. But they can also jailbreak a phone to slip spyware onto it before passing the phone along as a gift. The moral of this story is that you should be hesitant to use any electronic device, especially smartphones and laptops which have been gifted by your ex.

How Much of Spousal Spying is Legal?

Something you should know about spousal spying through new tech and cyberspace is that it is illegal in most circumstances. If your spouse has done any sort of clandestine maneuvering, tampering, or dishonest tricks to get access to your devices or data, then it is probably unlawful. Proving that they did break the law to spy on you can be used in your favor during divorce proceedings. For example, a family law judge will probably not want to give sole child custody rights to someone who has invaded their spouse’s privacy because they would likely do the same to their children.

However, beware that some spousal spying is legal. Namely, your spouse is permitted to look at your social media accounts for information to use against you. Even if your account is set as “private,” the posts and data stored there are technically in the public domain.

Legal Help After You Spouse Spies

If you live on Long Island and your spouse tried to spy on you, then Wisselman, Harounian & Associates wants to hear from you. Our team of family law and divorce attorneys has decades of legal experience dealing with some highly unusual cases. No matter what details are involved in your family law dispute or divorce, you can be certain we know the next steps to preserve and uphold your best interests and those of your children.

Call (516) 773-8300 now or contact us online to learn more.

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