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O'Flaherty Heim Birnbaum Kirchner & Curtis Ltd. > Family Law > Spying On Spouse’s Electronic Communications Is Illegal

Spying On Spouse’s Electronic Communications Is Illegal

Eva Longoria is leaving Tony Parker because he, allegedly, was texting another woman.  Stories like the above have become common.  As such, it comes as no surprise that spouses are increasingly spying on their spouses’ phone and computer activities.  What may come as a surprise, however, is that such spying is illegal.  18 U.S.C. §2510-2521 provides for a cause of action against anyone who intentionally endeavors to intercepts any wire, oral, or electronic communication.  This includes not only phone communications like texts but also computer communications, e.g., emails.  U.S. v. Szymuskiewicz, 622 F.3d 701.  It does not matter if the interception of such communications is done by a spouse, the marital home falls within the purview of 18 U.S.C. §2510-2521.  Kempf v. Kempf, 868 F.2d 970, 973 (8th Cir. 1989).      

In addition to there being a cause of action against a spying spouse, if information gained from such spying is used in subsequent legal proceedings, e.g., divorce, the spying spouse’s lawyer has opened him or herself to liability.  The tort of invasion of privacy allows a victim to sue not only the person who spied but also anyone who gives publicity to the information thereby gained.  Wis. Stat. § 995.50(2)(c).  Publicizing such information to the court or information even just to opposing counsel may constitute publicity.  Pachowitz v. LeDoux,  265 Wis. 2d 631 (App. 2003).  And the liability such an attorney opens him or herself up to can be steep; an invasion of privacy tort allows victims to seek punitive and compensatory damages plus attorney fees.

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