In the Courts

In the Courts – Spouse Spyware

It is illegal for a spouse to install a “spyware” program on a husband’s computer to copy and store e-mail correspondence, chat-room comments, and instant messages between the man and another woman, under Florida’s state law on electronic surveillance, which is similar to federal law. A state intermediate appeals court made the ruling last month. The software also tracked the husband’s visits to Web sites. “When the husband discovered the wife’s clandestine attempt to monitor and record his conversations with his [online] Dominoes partner, he uninstalled the Spector software and filed a motion for temporary injunction, which was subsequently granted, to prevent the wife from disclosing the communications,” the court explained. The question at trial and on appeal was whether the contents were stored (and not covered by the state law and therefore admissible against the husband in a trial) or were in transit (and therefore protected by the confidentiality provision of state law). Spyware programs like Spector copy communications that are transmitted, three judges on the appeals court found unanimously. O’Brien v. O’Brien, 5D03-3484 (Ct. App. 5th Dis., Fia., Feb. 11).

Copyright Privacy Journal Mar 2005

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