Rules of Netiquette – To Snoop, or Not to Snoop

Rules of Netiquette - To Snoop, or Not to SnoopIn this day of information at your digital fingertips, it’s become too easy to get data and become an obsessive snoop, even in your own household.

In pre-netiquette days, if you had a hunch that your honey or beau was cheating on you, you might have hired a detective. Today, as it relates to suspicious matters of the heart, you might ask a friend-of-a-friend to take inventory on his or her Facebook wall, or you might just happen to read an email to see if there’s a digital love note on your loved one’s personal computer.

Before you snoop, you must think about the consequences of your actions. Typically, your intuition is powerful. Trust it. If you think something is wrong with your relationship or marriage, you’re probably right. If you decide to snoop instead of directly confronting the suspected cheat in your life, be prepared for the worst. Your relationship might end on the spot, or you now may end up going to jail. Sound harsh? Read on.

Earlier this year I wrote an article on Huffington Post about a man from  Michigan, a man who suspected his wife was having. Leon Walker, who logged onto his wife’s computer in their marital home, found out his suspicion was true. He not only found incriminating emails of her affair, but he lost his wife who divorced him and he’s now been charged with a felony. His trial for digital snooping, originally scheduled for February, has been postponed to April 11, 2011. If he loses, he can go to jail for up to 5 years and receive a fine of $10,000.

According to Walker, 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 in Michigan, where a statute says:

“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.”

According to the Detroit Free Press, lawmakers in Michigan may pass an amendment to this hacking law to exempt spouses from prosecution for reading emails written by their husbands or wives. Unfortunately, Leon Walker may not benefit from this amendment as his trial is set for next week.

It’s one thing to do a background check, which is becoming more popular for single members of online dating sites or hiring new employees, but should you go to jail for reading your spouse’s email in your own home?

Protecting your digital reputation 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.

This is why you must have a Google alert set up for your name. It’s simple to do by going to and listing your keywords for both your name and business. Select how often you’d like to receive email alerts. I recommend once daily.  There’s a good chance you’ll find out when you’re mentioned online.

At the end of the day, if you know your relationship is over, there’s no reason to snoop. It’s not worth going to jail for. There’s a reason they say, Seek and You Shall Find.

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

Originally posted on Huffington Post

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2 Responses to Rules of Netiquette – To Snoop, or Not to Snoop
  1. Roxanne
    April 8, 2011 | 9:43 am

    I’ve lectured on this very topic. It’s one of those headlines that gets people tweeting but needs a lot of explanation. There is not enough information in the article to really talk about this particular man’s case as it is just one of those “OH NO” headline grabbers that people rant about. But I will say this, the point of the statute is likely to discourage people from hacking into someone’s account and then using information to cause them harm and loss — Same as posing as someone to get their banking information and then cleaning them out or running their business into the ground or getting them fired, etc. In other words, it depends on how you get the information and more importantly, how you use the information once obtained. People do need to know that these laws are out there. But the law is a funny thing, there are always lines drawn that make some things illegal and some things not, for example, generally I can look in my neighbor’s window from my house but if I trespass on his/her property to do it, then it’s a crime.

    So anyway, it’s good to educate people and thank you for that.

    • Julie
      June 15, 2011 | 9:25 pm

      Thank you for your comment Roxanne. Education about netiquette is very important, both for business and personal use.

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