GOOD QUESTION!: Should You Be Locked Up For Reading Your Spouse’s Email?


State prosecutors are launching a case against a Michigan man, and will
seek as much as five years in jail time, on hacking charges over the
man’s decision to read his then-wife’s email without her permission. The
unusual case–and the downright bizarre family dispute at its center–raises questions about what constitutes a criminal hacker and about
the limits of personal privacy. Asking, “is reading wife’s e-mail a crime?” The Detroit Free Press’ L.L. Brasier
reports
:

Oakland County prosecutors, relying on a Michigan
statute typically used to prosecute crimes such as identity theft or
stealing trade secrets, have charged Leon Walker, 33, with a felony
after he logged onto a laptop in the home he shared with his wife, Clara
Walker.

Using her password, he accessed her Gmail account and
learned she was having an affair. He now is facing a Feb. 7 trial. She
filed for divorce, which was finalized earlier this month.

But
the strangest part of this story might be the domestic dispute–a kind
of love quadrangle involving three ex-husbands–behind the alleged
criminal hacking.

Leon Walker was Clara Walker’s third husband.
Her e-mail showed she was having an affair with her second husband, a
man who once had been arrested for beating her in front of her small
son. Leon Walker, worried that the child might be exposed to domestic
violence again, handed the e-mails over to the child’s father, Clara
Walker’s first husband. He promptly filed an emergency motion to obtain
custody.

We’re not lawyers here at the Wire, but Leon Walker
doesn’t exactly come away from this looking like the next Julian
Assange. Fortunately for civil libertarians who might be alarmed at the
precedent, Brasier writes, “Legal experts say it’s the first time the
statute has been used in a domestic case, and it might be hard to prove.”

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