Cell Phone Tracking in Divorce and Family Law
Apple’s “Find my iPhone” app has been very helpful and convenient for me, in order to determine where my iPhone and iPad are located in my house, or whether I have inadvertently left them at the office. If I ever lose my phone by leaving it somewhere else, I’ll be grateful to have the app installed at that time, too. Android or Windows Phone users have similar options for logging in remotely to determine the locations of their devices. As I also imagine is common, my wife and I know each other’s typical passwords and I have, on occasion, used her login and password to help her find her phone.
The ability to locate a smartphone with only a user name and a password can be used for more nefarious purposes, however. As a Family Law attorney, I frequently hear from clients with situations involving domestic violence, controlling behavior, stalking, or suspicions of infidelity. Spouses or partners may have (or be able to easily obtain) all the information they need to be able to track the other party’s phone. In these situations, the ability of another person to log in remotely at any time and determine the precise location of a spouse or partner’s phone can have unwanted or even dangerous ramifications.
To make matters worse, several companies now sell “Spyware” which can be quickly and invisibly installed on any phone to which someone has access and which will, from that point forward, allow them to remotely monitor calls, texts, emails, and web usage from the phone, and even to remotely turn on the microphone and record conversations going on around the phone, all without any notice to the phone’s user. Use of these methods without the consent of the phone’s user would almost certainly constitute criminal offenses under Colorado’s wiretapping, computer crime, and stalking statutes, but such violations can be difficult to detect or prove.
In order to protect against this kind of surveillance, I recommend to clients that they employ a security code for access to their phone and electronic devices, and regularly change their security code, as well as their passwords to email accounts and other web services. In particular, at the outset of a dissolution of marriage case or other domestic problems, I recommend that clients change all their passwords, using secure passwords that the other party would not be able to guess. If someone suspects that their phone or device has already been compromised, or spyware has been installed, then they should seek the assistance of a computer security professional who can assist in detecting and eliminating any breaches. They should also consult with their attorney regarding sanctions which may be sought in their case.