A recent survey of more than 20,000 Americans shows that 55 percent have spied on their significant others. SeekingArrangement.com dating site conducted the survey among its users. Across all states represented in the survey, 45–68 percent of respondents admitted to spying on their significant others.
“Protecting privacy is increasingly difficult in today’s digitally-connected society,” said Brandon Wade, Founder & CEO of SeekingArrangement.com, in a press release. “Our study shows that surveillance today doesn’t require highly-paid spies or big technology budgets. More often than not, the act of spying can be performed by anyone—especially someone closest to you.”
The most common form of spying was unauthorized email access. Richmond, Va., was the town with the highest percentage of people who have spied on their partners at 68.1 percent. In the most trusting city—Jacksonville, Fla.—45.4 percent admitted to spying.
Relationships advice columnist for online magazine Twodaymag Natalie Bencivenga discussed spying in a 2010 entry.
A friend of hers tracked her own husband using an iPhone app she had uploaded on a phone she gave him as a gift. It allowed her to see his texts, track his location, see the photos he took with the phone, and more.
Bencivenga writes: “The time that she spends online tracking his every move, documenting what he says and to whom, and examining every photo that ends up on his cell phone must be exhausting. She must stay up at night, worrying herself sick about where he could be, what he could be doing. … All of that wasted energy being misdirected to try to catch him in an act that he hasn’t committed. It’s as though she wishes he would give her a reason to be spying on him, to validate her anxiety.”
Her friend told her it helps their marriage, because she is assured of her husband’s faithfulness—though he had not given her specific reasons to doubt it.
In 2007, Tony Plohetski of the American Statesman wrote about surveillance between lovers, and how it landed some with prison sentences. In Austin, Texas, Shawn Macleod got a four-year prison sentence for tracking his estranged wife’s online activity through a program called SpyRecon.
New Jersey divorce lawyer Theodore Slewinski outlines the legality of spying on a spouse.
“There is no easy answer to the question of whether it’s legal to do this kind of spying,” he said of using internet surveillance programs, in a posting on his website. “If the computer is located in the marital home, then (in most cases) the interception of emails will not constitute a violation of wiretapping laws. However, if the emails were password protected, or they were stored on your spouse’s work computer, trying to retrieve them could be a violation.”
He used the example of a case in which a court permitted the use of emails in a custody dispute. A wife had accessed the emails on the family computer without a password. They were stored in a folder on the hard drive, and the computer was kept in the family room.
Secret cameras in the family home and tracking devices placed in a car owned by the person spying are usually permissible, but there are gray areas when it comes to surveillance outside of the home or joint property.
According to New Jersey law, said Slewinski, recording telephone conversations, whether on a landline or cell phone, is a violation of wiretapping laws. Privacy laws vary from state to state.
Here is a summary of SeekingArrangement.com’s survey results concerning the “Least Trusting Cities,” “The Most Trusting Cities,” and the most common methods of spying between partners.
The Least Trusting Cities (Based on Percentage of Locals Who Admit to Spying)
Richmond, Va.: 68.1 percent
Denver, Col.: 67.2 percent
Tampa, Fla.: 66.7 percent
Columbus, Ohio: 66.2 percent
Raleigh, N.C.: 65.4 percent
Scottsdale, Ariz.: 61.9 percent
Nashville, Tenn.: 61.7 percent
Minneapolis, Minn.: 61.3 percent
Cincinnati, Ohio: 60.9 percent
Miami, Fla.: 60.7 percent
The Most Trusting Cities (Based on Percentage of Locals Who Have Never Spied)
Jacksonville, Fla.: 54.6 percent
Baltimore, Md.: 54.4 percent
Oklahoma City, Okla.: 53.7 percent
Beverly Hills, Calif.: 53.1 percent
New York, N.Y.: 51.3 percent
Louisville, Ky.: 51.1 percent
Seattle, Wash.: 50.4 percent
Orlando, Fla.: 50.0 percent
Los Angeles, Calif.: 48.8 percent
Houston, Texas: 48.8 percent
Most Common Methods of Spying (Based on Percentage of Total Surveyed)
Unauthorized email access: 58 percent
Unauthorized access to text messages: 47 percent
Researching social media accounts: 39 percent
Listening in on phone calls or use of phone taps: 18 percent
Looking through telephone records: 18 percent
Looking through credit card statements: 16 percent
Following and shadowing: 10 percent
Using mobile GPS tracking: 7 percent
Hiring a private investigator: 4 percent
Other: 9 percent