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Is accessing your spouse’s email account hacking?

Leon Walker from Michigan has been charged with hacking having accessed his wife’s email account. Not surprisingly accessing email, phones with their stored text messages and social networking sites is becoming one of the biggest ways of finding out if a spouse is cheating and the evidence is often used in court. Many give relations access to such electronic information, so is it really hacking to simply be logging into someone else’s account. They may not have permission for that particular instance but were given the password at some point. With this case what would seem to be a very minor misdemeanour is being treated in a similar way to those attempting more dangerous hacking or identity theft.

All the Yes points:

  1. Email accounts contain some potentially sensitive information.
  2. You have too much control over someone else.
  3. An email shouldn’t be used in a court of law.
  4. They were in a position of mistrust.
  5. AIf a you can access your spouse’s account you can fabricate emails from that very A/C to make your spouse look guilty
  6. He did not have permission
  7. You should respect your spouse’s privacy

All the No points:

  1. In this case, there was a good reason to.
  2. He had permission.
  3. Reading someone’s email isn’t hacking.
  4. Getting married is supposed to involve sharing your life with somebody

Email accounts contain some potentially sensitive information.

Yes because…

People don’t email each other things they would want to be in public, otherwise they would have put it on a blog or public forum. Quite intimate conversations can be had over email. They may want to vent their anger about their husband or say something they know their husband will disagree with while avoiding an argument. People who don’t understand technology that well could send personal details that they shouldn’t. People conduct sales and banking over the Internet and the site will send reminders over email. Many sites send registration confirmation in emails that includes the actual password. You should ask permission before you read anything potentially sensitive.

No because…

He wasn’t looking at sensitive information. He was looking for information about whether his wife was having an affair. This is a reasonable thing for him to be expected to know as it concerns his welfare and potentially his child’s.

You have too much control over someone else.

Yes because…

Being husband and wife doesn’t mean you want to share every single facet of your identity. A spouse isn’t completely trustworthy, they can turn abusive, they can secretly be manipulating you or pulling some kind of financial fraud against you. You always need things outside your marriage that you can use if it fails.

Quite apart from that, when you get married you are still your own person, you can’t let someone completely erode who you are. Your online presence should always be your own property because the Internet is for having a different identity, being anonymous, doing things you can’t do in the offline world. To interfere with someone’s online presence is to have too much control over them.

No because…

If you have a joint email account, as in this case, you have just as much power over them. You aren’t helpless – you can take retributive action any time you like.

An email shouldn’t be used in a court of law.

Yes because…

An email is very easy to fake. Emails can be altered or deleted before or after being sent. They can be drafted and then not sent. They can be written sent without the person’s permission by someone else with access to their account. Email accounts aren’t that difficult to hack into. The recipient could be a fake account and the conversation be with an imaginary person. There is virtually no way to prove either person’s account belongs to the person it is alleged to belong to. Because it is typed, there is no way to tell someone’s identity from their handwriting or from who has been touching the paper.

No because…

Whether an account is genuine or not is irrelevant to whether accessing your spouse’s account is hacking.

The assumption in the debate motion is that the account you’ve accessed ‘is’ your spouse’s account (no fake A/C issue). The fact that you can easily answer your spouse’s security questions because you have a healthy relationship based on trust and sharing means it’s okay to access your spouse’s A/C even without telling.

The assumption in the case given in the debate definition is that that was without a doubt his wife’s account and she was having an affair. The issue is of breach of privacy not a false accusation.

A famous indicator of healthy relationships is no secrets/lies.

Some spouses share accounts willingly. It’s definitely not hacking when you have his/her permission.

They were in a position of mistrust.

Yes because…

At the time he accessed the information, they were already in discord if he suspected his wife was having an affair. They will already have been acting out of character, their behaviour would have been suspicious, they would start acting hostile towards each other. In this situation they are not in a position where they can trust each other. Therefore they should not be sharing information that they can be used to hurt each other, and accessing such information should be seen as a threat.

No because…

Suspicion warranted a search for proof. He could either assume she was cheating on him (and you say they were squabbling about it) or he could check it out for himself.

If she was innocent, hacking into her account would have cleared the air on the misunderstanding.

The confirmation by looking at her emails justified his initial suspicions and proved that he was right about it.

AIf a you can access your spouse’s account you can fabricate emails from that very A/C to make your spouse look guilty

Yes because…

There is no proof that he didn’t just log in and write the email exchange himself.

She had filed for divorce months earlier, they weren’t ‘really’ married anymore and as such he invaded a half-stranger’s privacy by hacking into her A/C.

“According to prosecutors, Leon walker broke into his wife’s account several months after she filed for divorce. clara walker said her husband installed a tracking device that allowed him to track her e-mail activity. leon walker faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Locate history files, websites visited, searches e-mail history. memory bye. see you hide from me now, little man.
Spying on spouses is nothing new, but some snooping husbands and wives may not realize that in this new age of technology, peeking in the wrong places can actually be illegal. “


No because…

Why would he fake an email exchange with a fake account? Where’s the motive? Why go through all that trouble trying to frame his wife?

“Last year walker suspected his wife Clara was having an affair after finding calls on her phone bills to a previous husband. Concerned about the welfare of their 1-year-old daughter, Wilson decided to check his wife’s personal g mail account. Wilson says his suspicions were confirmed. She kept every password she had in a phone book, for the welfare of my daughter and my stepson, I had to check. and in going in there, I confirmed everything I had feared and then” -[[http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/40820892]]

This is an open and shut case. She was guilty, he didn’t frame her.

He did not have permission

Yes because…

Leon Walker went through his wife’s notebook to get her password and then he logged onto her email account.

He never asked if he could read her emails or if he could know her password; he stole it and he logged into her account; possibly to get out of paying alimony after the divorce(which she had filed for several months prior to Leon’s activity).

“Walker claims she kept her passwords on a piece of paper beside the computer, and he was well within his rights to log into her account. Prosecutors have a different take: they say Walker’s spying took place months after she filed for divorce, which was granted this month. What’s more, Walker’s ex testified that he had installed a device on their computer to keep track of her email activity.”


No because…

They were living in the same house, using the same computer, it’s not as though he invaded actually existing privacy.

Okay, in this case the wife had already filed for divorce and so the two were not really married in a sense. Normally a husband and wife when they are living under the same roof are not separated.


You should respect your spouse’s privacy

Yes because…

Even though you have said your marriage vows and promised to love and trust each other till eternity, the fact still remains that you and your spouse are two different people with two different lives. Even though your spouse may have given you his or her password, you should still understand that it is your spouse’s “personal” e-mail account and should remain personal- meaning your spouse should be the only one accessing it. Since it is your spouse’s e-mail account and you and your spouse are not the same person, accessing your spouse’s e-mail account without your spouse’s knowledge is synonymous to hacking, and therefore should be considered as a violation of privacy.

No because…

In this case, there was a good reason to.

No because…

Mr. Walker(Clara’s third husband) believed that his wife was having an affair with a man(Clara’s second husband) with a history of domestic violence and he was worried his stepson might become exposed to violence as well.

He needed to access the information quickly so the child’s father (Clara’s first husband) could file an emergency motion to obtain custody.


Yes because…

If he suspected this, he should have reported it to the police and they would have accessed the information. Anyone can claim to be suspicious about someone else’s activity in order to access information about them. You can’t intrude on other people’s property because of suspicion, you shouldn’t be able to access their computers without permission.

As someone with reason to be extremely biased against her, he should have been the last person to have access to her private information. He could have rewritten, fabricated or deleted pertinent information.

Counterargument: He could warn the first husband without snooping around his wife’s email account.

He had permission.

No because…

He was given the password by his wife and the laptop was shared. He had permission to use the email account.

Yes because…

If his wife was sending information that she wouldn’t want him to know about, she obviously either trusted him not to read the emails or didn’t think he had access. He should have asked for specific permission for what he knew to be potentially sensitive information. She may not even understand that she wasn’t supposed to give other people her password – in which case, her security is breached and he, as someone with more understanding of technology, should be helping her.

Reading someone’s email isn’t hacking.

No because…

Reading someone else’s email isn’t something you should face a prison sentence for, like you would if you hacked into the database of a bank or a Government department. He hasn’t demonstrated any actual ability or intention to be a hacker, he hasn’t committed any identity fraud or stolen any money, he isn’t a danger to the public so why impose such a hefty sentence?

Yes because…

While it should not have incurred the maximum penalty and maybe shouldn’t have been classified as ‘hacking’, it still should be considered an offense. The law concerning the use of digital technology still isn’t completely clear and many issues still need to be resolved. For instance, many games no longer available in stores aren’t legal to emulate. Breaching someone’s privacy online should be an offense – I do not want to think that other people, even those close to me, are reading through my emails without my permission!

Getting married is supposed to involve sharing your life with somebody

No because…

The very core of a good marriage is trust and sharing. Trust about money. Trust about personal conduct. Trust about defending your partner in public, even when you disagree in private. Trust about stating your feelings, interests and intentions with honesty. It is clear to me that in a marriage where the partners constantly feel the need to hide behind a barrier of personal privacy, that marriage is going to fail, and probably sooner rather than later.

In a case where trust has broken down, Marriage Councilling may sometimes be able to contribute something. The criminal courts, I would suggest, have no competence in this area, and will only serve to inflame feelings futher.

Yes because…

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