We all know that hacking into other people’s e-mail accounts is wrong; especially if you are planning on committing a crime like fraud or stealing personal details with the intention of blackmail. But what if you looked into your family member’s e-mail account, only because you were fearing for the safety of your own child?—from your own home computer. Should it be punishable on the same level of crime as identity fraud or stealing millions of dollars from giant corporations?
For Leon Walker, a Michigan man that looked into his wife’s e-mail address, it might just be. Walker was charged with unauthorized access to a computer in order to “acquire, alter, damage, delete or destroy property,” and will be going to trial on Feb. 7th. If found guilty he might face up to 5 years in prison.
But how exactly did Walker “hack” into his wife’s e-mail account, and why?
It wasn’t by using any technical or complex hacking process or tool. Instead, he used their home computer, which he had paid for, and looked up his wife’s e-mail password in an address book that she keept right next to the computer. And what he found he was rightly suspicious about.
His wife was having an affair with her second ex-husband, who had previously been arrested for beating her in front of her son. Finding this out, Walker not only had reason to confront her, but he also brought up the e-mail in their divorce and child custody battle, which is when she reported him to the police.
But should Walker be found guilty of this crime? And should it even be considered a crime in a domestic case where the man was fearing for the safety of his own children? Widener University law professor Michael Dimino says even though generally these laws are applied to identity theft cases or stealing trade secrets, people could be rightfully prosecuted under these statutes if their interest is just curiosity.
We will find out on Feb 7th what the judges decide, but until then what do you think? Is it right to snoop on your significant other’s e-mail, or should it be a crime?