Spying

Is Spying Legal or Illegal in this Cyber-Oriented World?

It all depends on the case!

Last updated on February 2nd, 2018 at 10:05 pm

Here at SpyAdvice, we receive dubious comments from our readers – every day. Although they have all reasons to spy on phones or computers, one thing seems to worry them a lot – Is Spying Legal? Well, I always try to give a brief explanation of instances when spying is a crime and when it is not.

But, I promise to get them something more detailed. So, is there a law that protects spying – yes. Is spying a crime? That depends! By the end of this article, you will know the instances when spying is evil, and when it’s right!
Is Spying Legal or Illegal

Is Spying Legal or Illegal: Define Espionage Act

Basically, this is a law that protects spying or a set of rules that constitute the illegal surveillance act. In 1917, the United States passed the Espionage Act, and although subsequent Congresses keep amending it, the laws still target to avoid military interference. It was during World War I, and it sought to bar citizens from supporting adversary nations.

Then, the Supreme Court in 1919 agreed that the law was in perfect congruence with the freedom of expression. Since then, the century-old law has had several contests in court.

Of course, similar legislations are available in other countries across the world. So, if you are planning to sell secrets to a rival country, then you can be sure you are in the wrong already. In fact, it is the same law that is charging the famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden.

Together with other laws, the Espionage Act protects privacy and outlines the situation in which spying is illegal.

Obtaining information without consent, forcefully or tricking people to get personal info are all unlawful. It gets severe when the information is passed to foreign governments. Such offenses amount to treason and could attract execution, deportation or imprisonment.

Is Spying on Someone Illegal – Law Vs Morality

After Snowden had revealed how governments are eavesdropping on all of us, the idea of hacking and spying became a street folk talk.

Well, we’d like to stop the authorities from intruding into our privacy, but we do not know how. So, I won’t get to that, but my article is dedicated to the person to person hacking. Yes, the little things that people do to spy on others.

For instance, it is shocking to realize that someone is secretly peeping into your nude private galleries. Or, your former wife now keeps vigil watching your every keystroke.

Maybe, your employer is already successful in installing software to spy on your calls, chats, and browsing. Of course, you cannot rule out the notion that your wife or husband already knows you are reading this…

Alone, these simple case studies should give you answer to what illegal spying is. Sorry but, most of the things we do when trying to snoop on our employees, children, and spouses are illegal. As long as you are spying on a device that’s not yours, there are high chances that you are going against the law. The same case applies to spying on people without their consent.

In short, spying on other people is the thin line between ethics and morality. Well, this is one of the hottest debates in philosophical discourses, and the way it ends varies from person to person. In this case, it is about what is legal, and what is moral.

Your decision-making needs to consider these two aspects. Why? You should not be so concerned about a law that you can even overlook the morality behind it, or the vice versa.

For instance, spying on your kid’s phones could protect them from the dangers of the internet. Possibly, you could help them tow to discipline.

Likewise, if you know a simple spyware on your husband’s phone could save your marriage, shouldn’t you go for it? What about snooping to ensure your employees don’t steal from you? In these cases, should the judgment be about the spying or what the snoop wants to do with the collected info?

Well, I don’t intend to influence your decision, but I’d love to hear you made the right choice. If aligned in court, it will be about the law, motivation and of course, the attorney’s brilliance.

While it is important to be decisive, it is also worthy to consider what the law says about the stand you are taking. In my case, shaping the conscience to be legal is the best way to trust thoughts, and become resolute.

Corporate Espionage: Is it Illegal to Spy on Employees?

Tracking your employees is a prudent idea too. First, it is beneficial to the company. Some workers are rogue, and they need taming. You need to ensure they are doing the right thing at the right time. When you don’t have the time to do this, spying could come in handy. But, you should also consider the legal implications of spying on employees.

Most companies spy on their employees to avoid theft and compromise. Software, editorial and related corporations spy on their staff members to avoid incurring losses from stolen or compromised intelligence.

Think about this- when Microsoft was launching Windows 8, there was a leak of the software. By the time the company was releasing the operating system, black markets already had it.

This reflected in low revenues for the Windows 8, a reason that made the company give it free to most users. In fact, it’s the reason why they came up with Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 later. No doubt, the leak brought catastrophic losses to the company.

Now, if only the company had employed intensive legal spying on its employees, maybe Bill Gates would be a few billion richer! Microsoft is just one of the many businesses that have been hit by leaked intelligence. So, how exactly should you spy on your employees?

You cannot snoop on employees’ personal phones – that’s too far. If your intention is to save your company, then you need to get a corporate device. If you own the device, then you are free to monitor them. Even then, you’d still have to inform the employees that you are tracking them. In most cases, this clause is signed as part of the contract.

With such spyware, you can control how employees work. Instead of having to go to their desks, you can watch it right on your desktop. Again, you can lock or manipulate how the devices work, including deleting files or apps.

Is Spying on Your Spouse Legal?

Wives are fascinated about spying on their husbands, and vice versa. In fact, the surest way to make your spyware go viral is to indicate a screaming title ‘Software to Monitor Your Spouse’! Many companies scream the slogan but conceal the legal issues therein.

The law is rigid. First, it requires you to own the phone you are trying to spy, then inform your spouse that you are monitoring it.

For instance, if you want to catch your cheating wife, order an iPhone from eBay, install a monitoring app and give it to her. This way, you qualify to own the device. Then, you will have to be straightforward by explaining that your intention is to spy on her.

Maybe you’ll say ‘Hey dear, this is to help me confirm you are cheating!’ Good luck with that – if you are successful with catching your spouse using this kind of approach, then you’re the one getting tricked!

If you want to spy on your spouse legally, you need Google, Facebook and other publicly available info about them. If they have said or written anything to you, that’s legal. Otherwise, you will need to hire out a professional investigator to do the spying on your behalf. The licensed investigator can testify in court about all the information obtained legally.

In short, although spying on your spouse legally is not possible, spy software developers will not tell you that. They will wrap their terms and conditions in a statement ‘seek advice from an attorney’. Yet, they so well know that it is not practical to spy on your partner legally.

Is it Legal to Spy on Your Children?

Many schools allow kids to carry smartphones to class. At home, parents want to communicate with their children often. This increases the need for minors to have phones.

But the trouble comes with how kids use them. Remember, there are no phones made specifically for children. So, what they have is not a toy, and it can communicate to anyone, and connect to any website on the internet.

That leaves a parenting loophole that every guardian would like to fix. Spying on children’ cell phone for protection is justifiable.

Both law and morality allow you to find out what websites your kids visit, pages they read or people they contact. The law does not consider minors as people who can make firm decisions, so many interpret the clause as permission for parental guidance.

So, yes, it is legal to spy on YOUR children. Of course, it’d be absurd to go around hacking the smartphones of other people’s kids. In this case, the smartphone is yours, because you bought it for the kids, and you have the right to decide on behalf of the minor. Overall, you have a legal responsibility to affirm the right to safety to your kids.

Is it Illegal to Spy On Someone’s Cell Phone?

There is growing need to spy on other people’s mobile phones. In fact, most developers design their software to do this, but they sugarcoat the description with legal forms of surveillance.

To be forthright, it is illegal to spy on someone else’ cell phone. You cannot spy another person’s smartphone; if you own the device that someone else is using, you need to ask them for permission to monitor it. But this varies from state to state because when the device is yours, you have all usage rights over it.

Spyware Laws: Legality of Spying Software

Many countries have sets of rules to guide spying. They vary in application, and in some places, you can use software to spy on another person. The right to privacy is in the Bill of Rights, which is universal. So, how right is spying software?

Well, there’s no short answer to this, so we have to use the long way. Spyware is legal, depending on different situations. For instance, the government infringes the right of privacy for security reasons. They use technology (software?) to spy on citizens and other governments. The purpose is to protect the citizens, which makes it reasonable.

Likewise, parents are free to use spyware to protect their children. It is the responsibility of the parent to offer security and guidance to his or her kids. When the child is using a smartphone or laptop, safety guidance is necessary, too.

If you are using an agreed software to supervise your employees, then it is legal. As stated in this article, the gadget needs corporate, and the staff members need to have agreed to the spying. The law allows consensual monitoring.

In brief, spyware is legal as long as you are using it on the right person. It must be your device, and/or the target needs to have allowed you to carry out the monitoring.

So, if the software does any of these three things, then it is legal. If it is not for monitoring employees, children or personal gadgets, then it isn’t legal. But what’s the difference?

Let’s get real here – most users of spying software do not purchase them for legal use only. A big bunch of customers uses the apps to spy on their spouses. The company is smart- they have a legal disclaimer stipulating that it is up to you to use the software within the legal frames.

The tagline may scream that you can spy on your partner, but it is only a marketing rhetoric or bait. They remind you that if caught using the program for illegal spying, you are to blame. So, the issue of legality lies with you. How you use the app tells whether it’s legal or not, and you carry the liability alone.

Is Spying on Texts Illegal

Most people are fascinated by reading other people’s texts. In fact, in a bus seat, it is common to find someone looking over his or her shoulder to see your incoming text. This urge, however, can land you in prison.

If you spy on someone’s texts without their consent, you are breaking their right to privacy, and the Bill of Rights is categorical about that.

There are situations when it is worthwhile to read other people’s messages. Yes, even though it goes against their privacy, the spying is necessary to protect yet another constitutional freedom. Below are some of those issues.

  • If a device belongs to you, then it is legal to monitor it. This also applies to the situation when someone else is using it.
  • If you are a parent who wants to exercise guidance and control on your underage kids, then you have a right to read their texts.
  • It is legal to spy on your employees as a way of supervision and to curb corporate leaks. The two parties must confirm that they agree to this.

Most Famous Spies

By now, you already have a clue about people who have gone against the Espionage Act. Of course, anyone who has done that is an automatic illegal spy. Most whistleblowers, including those who have done it for public interests, are part of the criminals, at least according to this law. Some of the most famous spies in the world include the following.

  • Edward Snowden – A former contractor with the National Security Agency (NSA). He is a whistleblower who told the world about the strategies in which the United States government security agencies were spying on citizens.
  • Chealsea ‘Bradley’ Manning – the Cablegate whistleblower
  • Daniel Ellsberg – famous for being the lead whistleblower of the controversial Pentagon Papers
  • Victor Berger – an American with German origin. He was a socialist congressional representative and a vocal newspaper editor
  • Joseph Franklin Rutherford – a former President of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society
  • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Verdict

Spying on other parties is a double-edged sword. Yes – the reasons why people spy on others are quite lucrative, and some are reasonable too.

But the penalties are severe, and this should send you a warning already. Legislations aim to protect the right to privacy, and this is done with prejudice.

Since you need to be careful, it is also worthwhile to reason along the gap between law and morality. This way, you will know when it is right to spy, and when it is not.

Likewise, the providers of spying software need to be careful not to encourage illegal spying. Well, many companies have terms and conditions that distance the providers from any illegal spying. They always urge users to ‘seek legal assistance,’ but who does that anyway? It sounds similar to what they write on painkillers- ‘seek advice from your doctor’.

In brief, spying is legal, but it can amount to a crime depending on how you carry it out. In any case, you get stuck; it’s recommended to speak to your lawyer. If you have a question, let’s get it answered in the comment section below.

Kinyua Njeri
the authorKinyua Njeri
Staff Writer
Kinyua writer is a Tech freelancer from Kenya. He’s a technology geek but also writes intuitive articles on other topics. Kinyua's motto is ‘‘Research Deeply, Test Thoroughly, and Write Simply’.’.
1 Comment
  • hi,
    someone in my company accessed my email and read my personal texts without my consent . please clarify me is it legal or illegal? and what are the necessary actions to take for the loss of my personal privacy? what are the actions to take to punish them?

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