I Spied on My Spouse, Now What?
This is where the distinction between “interception” and “accessing a stored electronic communication” becomes critical. If you placed a wiretap on a telephone, or hired a computer professional to break into your spouse’s computer to monitor his chat room discussions, this is obviously an “interception.” Some courts have defined interception to mean acquiring communications as they are transmitted. If you have intercepted a message, you may not use it for any purpose. You may not tell anyone else the contents of it, even by paraphrasing. You may not use it in evidence in your divorce. Each instance of disclosing the information to another person can theoretically be considered a separate cause of action for damages or criminal culpability. One federal court has found that even those who listen to the illegally recorded conversations can be found liable for violating the statute.