Once upon a time, many, many years ago, we sat in front of the computer screen of a now ex-boyfriend’s laptop, and noted that his open email account happened to be a tab at the top of the open Internet page waiting in all-too-tempting proximity, while he, of course, was taking a shower. Did we look? Oh, we did. The results were not good.
Here is a cold, hard fact: Anything that you will learn by snooping is better learned otherwise. Because it will never go well, even in the rare case that it’s good, if you do snoop. (We’ve had at least one friend learn of her spouse’s infidelity in this way, and while you might argue she was lucky to find out when she did, she also had to face the reality of confessing to her crime while confronting him about his. Awkward.)
At any rate, you should never, ever accept someone else’s password into your brain or on a piece of paper, because there is very little chance of that going well. And, in what has to be considered an extreme worst case scenario, you might be sent to jail for five years for doing so.
Leon Walker, a 33-year-old Michigan man, now faces five-year felony charges after accessing his then-wife’s email with a password he alleges she “left around” (she says they didn’t share and weren’t living together). He checked her Gmail after getting suspicious that she was having an affair — oh, but she was, and with her second husband, who had apparently been abusive.
So Walker got in touch with her first husband, with whom she had a son, the first husband filed a motion to regain custody, and…the shit hit the fan.
Now the couple is divorced, with Oakland County prosecutor Jessica Cooper pursuing a case, for hacking, against Walker. He’s charged with “unauthorized access to a computer in order to ‘acquire, alter, damage, delete or destroy property,'” and goes to trial in February.
What is clear in a world of absolutes is that privacy was likely invaded. But what is extremely unclear in the world of relationships is what boundaries people can be expected to actually adhere to, despite what we all know full well to be wise and/or “advisable.”
Chances are, this guy, who some are calling an “everyman,” won’t actually go to jail for five years. But if he does, every person who has ever snooped from within the confines of a relationship — which is really just every person except for maybe people who still have AOL accounts — should probably take a little vacay off the grid for a while.
P.S. We broke up. Obviously.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 28, 2010