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The importance of protecting against spyware during divorce

As a divorce attorney, I’m encouraging my clients to conduct “digital checkups.” This means reviewing every password from the Nest thermostat and Ring doorbell in your home to your social media and online bank accounts. It means knowing how your online life is intertwined with your future ex-spouse, such as whether you share an iCloud account or active tracking feature on your smartphone. 

In the best case, both parties remain respectful despite the painful emotions that arise during divorce. Facebook accounts and emails stay private, even when a spouse knows or could guess the other’s passwords. Easy-to-use tracking apps that shows the location of family through a smartphone don’t become a method for obsessive spying.

Unfortunately, the worst case can be pretty bad. Spyware attached to electronic devices are capable of tracking someone’s location around the clock, recording conversations, and activating cameras in cell phones or home security systems. Imagine this happening in your attorney’s office. A spouse is “listening in” to sensitive conversations because the microphone in your phone can be controlled remotely. Or he or she is reading all the emails you send to your lawyer.

A recent article, “The Perils of Spyware,” published by the American Bar Association provides a good overview of what commonly used apps can do, if they are not disabled or changed through new passwords or login information. Here is what you should consider for review:

  • Mobile phone apps for home security systems, location services, shared photo accounts, shared file storage accounts, online banking accounts, and shared messaging accounts.
  • Smart home apps such as automatic door locks, automated lighting, and surveillance system. Nest and Ring home security systems record audio and video that can be accessed remotely. Cameras around the home can be accessed remotely for listening and viewing in real time or in recordings.
  • Vehicle-connected smartphone apps allow drivers to locate their car on a map, lock or unlock doors from anywhere, and access the car’s navigation system, including previous routes.
  • Location-based apps show location of family and friends, including date, time, and duration of visits.
  • Family-monitoring apps reveal where family members are and can set up alerts for when they arrive at home, school, or work. Some can give 30-day histories of where someone has been with dates and times.

To remain safe from more nefarious software – that is intentionally installed for spying or tracking during a divorce – the article recommends the online practices that protect against hackers. Don’t click on suspicious links or download software or applications from unreliable sources. Use good security software and keep your computer operation system updated. 

The bottom line is that the best defense against digital threats during divorce is prevention, from reviewing your passwords to following basic online safety practices. I urge you to take these steps as part of your divorce planning. 

Jeanne Coleman has practiced family law for more than 30 years. She guides clients to successful divorce through compassion, legal skill, and deep knowledge of Florida family law. For a free consultation, call 813-253-2820.