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Can He/She Read My Email? Privacy Protections and the Law

August 7, 2013

In this age of e-mail, social media and electronic communications, people leave behind an inviting trail of information that a curious, jealous or controlling spouse or boy/girlfriend may be tempted to view. If someone suspects his/her spouse of cheating he/she may want to search through emails or text messages for evidence of another romantic or sexual partner. Suspicious spouses even have been known to put software “snooping” devices on a partner’s computer to track communications.

Is it legal to read your husband’wife’s email? Interceptions of electronic communications can violate a number of federal and state laws. Reading another person’s email or texts ( even your spouse’s) without their consent is a violation of privacy. But the answer to whether this always is illegal is it depends.

Whether reading emails or other communications is legal or not may depend upon a number of factors, including: whether the email is sitting on a server or is downloaded; the type of device the communication is on; whether the device is personal or shared with others; whether the device is password protected; and if password protected, whether the password is shared. As a general rule, the greater the protections taken to keep communications private, the more likely it will be that intercepting such a communication will be illegal.

As we have seen, from recent news reports regarding data collection by the National Security Agency, sources in our government may be scanning our email, or capturing the phone numbers we dial. However, that fact alone does that give carte blanch to private persons to read our mail or listen to our conversations

If you have any desire to snoop on your partner, or if you have concerns that someone may be snooping on you, it is best to speak with an attorney and learn what the reasonable expectation of privacy is and what is legal