The Rules of Netiquette: To Snoop, or Not to Snoop

So you have a hunch that your honey or beau is cheating on you. Do you hire a detective? Have a friend-of-a-friend take inventory on their Facebook wall? Or, would you read their email to see if there's a digital love note on their desktop?

Before you snoop, think about the consequences of your actions. Typically your intuition is powerful. If you think something is wrong with your relationship or marriage, you're probably right. If you decide to snoop instead of directly confront the suspected cheat in your life, you now may end up going to jail.

In Michigan, a 33-year-old man who suspected his wife was having an affair has been charged with a felony. Leon Walker, who logged onto his wife Clara's laptop in their home, found out his suspicion was true. Not only did he find incriminating emails of her affair, he lost his wife who filed for divorce, and is now going to trial for digital snooping in February 7, 2011.

According to Leon, he purchased the computer, used it frequently, and was concerned about the welfare of their son. Whether you think his snooping was unethical or not, it now is illegal.

It's one thing to do a background check, which is becoming more popular for singles on online dating sites, but should you go to jail for reading your spouse's email in your own home?

According to a post on, the Michigan statute states,

A person shall not intentionally and without authorization or by exceeding valid authorization do any of the following:

Access or cause access to be made to a computer program, computer, computer system or computer network to acquire, alter, damage delete or destroy property or otherwise use the service of a computer program, computer, computer system or computer network.

Protecting your online identity has become harder to do. Between Facebook updates of your activity, personal blogs and Twitter streams that are open to the public, there's really no hiding anymore. One can only hope that their emails and passwords are secure, but anytime you push the send button on an email, assume that it can and may be forwarded on the public Internet.

At the end of the day, there's no reason to snoop. It's not worth having a jail sentence, when you know your relationship is already over.

Do you believe that digital snooping should be illegal? Comments are welcome.