A man from Rochester Hills, Mich. is in big trouble with his ex-wife for searching for clues of a suspected affair.
Leon Walker, the third husband of Clara Walker, began snooping after Clara became extremely distant and their marriage began to suffer.
After checking phone records, he noticed she had been in frequent contact with her second husband, whom she divorced after filing a police report for abuse. Concerned for his daughter as well as for Clara’s son from her first marriage, Leon logged into her e-mail on their laptop to search for hard evidence that something was going on.
When the e-mails proved Clara was in a romantic relationship with her abusive second husband, Leon printed them out and gave them to her first husband so he could make a judgment about what would be best for his son. The first husband filed for full custody, and Clara filed suit against Leon under a statute usually used to prosecute government computer hackers and identity thieves.
Clara and Leon have conflicting stories about the event. He says the laptop was shared and that he often did work on it. He also says she had told him her password previously and kept all her passwords in a little book next to the computer.
She denies all of this and says that although Leon bought the laptop for her, it was hers and hers alone. However, when Leon brought in the password book as evidence in court, she admitted it was hers.
The primary argument Clara and her attorney Jessica Cooper are using is that Leon works as an IT specialist, and therefore, his access of her e-mail without permission is hacking.
Not only is this a completely ludicrous argument, but also it is the equivalent of saying all actors are experts at criminal fraud. The charge being pursued is intended to punish criminals from damaging computer programs and systems, not cover civil cases or privacy issues.
For a moment though, let’s ignore everything but the situation itself: A man with probable cause checks the private e-mail of his wife to discover whether or not she’s cheating on him.
Ethically, the situation is muddy. Some will argue that marriage is all-inclusive and that once you’re married it is impossible to have a 100 percent guarantee of privacy. After all, they state, you shouldn’t keep secrets from your spouse.
Others, however, will argue that married individuals are still just that 8212; individuals 8212; and should be able to trust their spouses enough to keep a few things private.
Legally, though, is the government responsible for regulating privacy within the marriage? When you boil it down, e-mail snooping is essentially electronic eavesdropping. Not only is it infeasible to make eavesdropping illegal, it allows the government a level of control that no one should ever have over our lives.
While 45 percent of divorce cases involve snooping in the electronic communication of a spouse, that’s a personal issue, and allowing the government to regulate privacy within a relationship is like allowing it to become a sort of matchmaker, dictating who is ethical enough to belong in a relationship and sending those who aren’t to prison.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder called the case a waste of taxpayer money and intends to introduce an amendment to the hacking clause to prevent civil charges being filed under it.
And how does Clara feel about all this? “I hope he will let go of this anger that he has towards me. He violated my privacy. I was violated. So what about me?” she said. Sounds like she’s just about ready for her debut on “Jersey Shore.”
Danika Scevers is a freshman premajor from Abilene.