Cyberstalking and Surveillance in Family Law Attorneys Morris County NJ
As technology evolves, so do the illicit ways in which it is being used.
The advancement of technology has impacted our lives in a myriad of ways. Some support our wellbeing and livelihood, especially in the arenas of medicine and communication. Others oppress our liberties, such as the use of technology to steal information, spread false or unpermitted information, and spy using illegally obtained access to online accounts.
As technology evolves, so do the illicit ways in which it is being used. One such way is the use of technology by abusive partners to surveil their spouses, using the tool to manipulate them or force them to stay in the relationship. This is called cyberstalking, and, by New Jersey law, it is illegal and can result in a domestic violence charge.
What is the difference between surveillance and cyberstalking, and what constitutes illegal “inter-spousal spying”?
Surveillance is the unpermitted spying on someone in person, and it is a tactic used during many divorce proceedings in an attempt to catch a spouse doing something that will impact the outcome of the proceedings. Courts differ regarding whether surveillance is admissible in divorce court because the “reasonable expectation of privacy” that New Jersey law affords spouses is up for interpretation, especially during the process of separation.
Cyberstalking is spying that happens online in the ever-growing technological field. Its definition is more clear than surveillance. According to national laws against wiretapping as well as the New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:156A), there are four specific activities that constitute cyberstalking and are illegal:
- Breaking into password-protected accounts
- Recording or intercepting phone calls or communications between your spouse and another person
- Breaking into your spouse’s work computer
- Installing surveillance technology in certain private areas of the home
The New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act addresses traditional ways of cyberstalking in this rapidly-growing technological environment. However, as we move into a new decade, the traditional modes of cyberstalking have evolved. Read on to learn the latest ways spouses are privately surveilling their partners using technology, so you can be prepared to take protective steps if necessary.
Stalking and Surveillance in Vehicles
Many new cars are connected to their owner’s devices via an app. These apps allow owners to check on their cars’ levels at any time, yet it also provides the capacity to check on GPS location. Some spouses are using this satellite data to keep track of their partner’s whereabouts. If you have a late model Acura, BMW, Honda, Land Rover, Cadillac, Buick, Volvo, or Chrysler, you likely have this new technology and run the risk of being a cyberstalking victim.
This capacity to use an app to track one’s movements can turn dangerous depending on what one has available via the app. For example, the Acura app offers the capacity to lock or unlock doors and sound the horn. In the wrong hands, this could pose a risk to the driver and others on the road.
Technological Surveillance in the Home
Nearly everything is automated today using advancements in our home technology. What we are used to being automated – garage door openers, refrigerators, etc – has now been joined by much more, including thermostats, fitness trackers, and door locks — and everything controlled remotely by an app can be used as a surveillance tool. There have been countless reports of stalkers hacking into apps and changing controls, which is at best frustrating for the victim, and at worst, dangerous for their safety.
It is important to educate yourself on cybersecurity and ensure that you keep the instruction manual and all purchaser information for the appliances you put into our home. Most can be programmed by changing the home’s wi-fi password, but check with the instruction manual or contact someone at the manufacturer’s helpline if you need to change the security passwords for a product.
Sometimes a disgruntled ex will install a tracking app in their child’s smartphone in order to keep track of their location at all times. You will be able to note that the phone loses battery more quickly than others without a GPS tracking device constantly enabled. You may also note differences in the phone’s behavior from that of yours, unless your phone is, of course, being tracked, too.
If you find oddities in your child’s phone or your own, reset the apps on your phone.
Contact Our Morristown Domestic Violence Attorneys Today
If any of these signs of cyberstalking show up, contact an attorney to learn your rights and legal ways to protect yourself and your family from cyberstalkers.
At The Law Offices of Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients in Florham Park, Tewksbury, Randolph, Morristown, across Morris County in matters of technological harassment and stalking.