Thursday, December 30, 2010

"You've Got Mail," and Your Mail Is YOUR Mail - A Look at Invasion of Privacy

As I start this blog post, let me make it very clear that my intent is not to defend the actions of Clara Walker, a Detroit, Michigan wife whose email account was allegedly hacked or read without her authorization by her husband Leon Walker. It is however, a post stating my views concerning the unauthorized reading or entering of email accounts, cell phone text messages, cell phone voice message accounts, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, personal/private journals etc. etc. In my view (and this is my personal view, as this is my blog) no one, including spouses or any other family members ought to be able to enter into any of these private accounts without the express permission or authorization of the account holder. Just because you are in a committed or marital relationship does not automatically give anyone (husband or wife; boyfriend or girlfriend) carte blanche to just blatantly disregard the fact that email accounts, etc. are private accounts for the holder. That’s why they are all password protected. I very well understand the principals of marriage, and I also understand that whether you are married or not, you are still an individual and are entitled to your privacy. Invasion of privacy rules ought to still apply whether it is a spouse, brother, sister, mother, father, stranger etc. Invasion of privacy is invasion of privacy.

Having been one on the receiving end of having my journals, email and cell phone voice mail accounts compromised, it is clearly a pet peeve of mine. When I read the accounts of the Walker case it brought back vivid flashbacks of my experiences. Again, I do not condone Mrs. Walker’s behavior as that is a separate issue; however, it is not a good feeling to have your privacy invaded in such a way. It leaves you feeling violated just as if someone had broken into your house or gone into your underwear drawer without your authorization. Regardless of what type of relationship you are in, there are just some things that you want to remain with you and keep private. In my view marriage is not a license to trample on each others' privacy. Just like any other part of the relationship, the privacy piece needs to be respected as well and when it is not, you can expect trouble.

Mr. Walker in an interview stated that "She'd asked me to read her e-mails before and that "She gave me the password before. She didn't hide it." First of all I don’t believe in husbands and wives sharing passwords to individual accounts. If it is a shared email account that is one thing; however, if it is a personal account, the passwords ought not to be shared to avoid the possibility of either snooping. The old cliché that says “curiosity killed the cat” is true. You define “cat” in any way you would like, whether it be a marriage(cat), relationship(cat), job(cat) or whatever, in many instances snooping in someone’s private email account can be a killer. The other old adage of “If you look for anything long and hard enough, you will find it,” is also true. Whatever you look for in someone else’s accounts, you will undoubtedly find even if it is in your own mind and perception. Again, I understand folks view on marriage concerning EVERYTHING has to be shared and I don’t agree. Married or not, we still have to have our own space and be able to maintain some individuality (I know there are those of you who won’t agree and that’s okay). My view is I have me, you have you, and we have we. You do your thing; I do my thing; and then there are things we do together. The more developed each one becomes as an individual, the stronger the WE will become; individual interests, friends, personalities, etc. needs to also be a part of a marriage or relationship. There ought not to be any need for each other to read each other’s personal emails and text messages unauthorized. Either you trust each other or you don’t. If you choose to invite your spouse to read a particular email or the two of you share a joint email address that is one thing; to blatantly barge into or hack into a personal account is another.

There are invasion of privacy laws, and in the Walker case Oakland County, Michigan, Prosecutor Jessica Cooper used a state anti-hacking law to charge Leon Walker with a felony. According to CNN, the Michigan statute forbids someone from accessing "a computer program, computer, computer system or computer network" to acquire property "without authorization." New York criminal defense lawyer Paul Callan said all 50 U.S. states have such laws, but he called this "a highly unusual use of a criminal statute." There are other tenets of the various invasions of privacy laws and statues as well. People really need to think before they “peek” (Mr. Walker’s words) or snoop around in other folks’ emails, journals, and other various accounts because they are indeed breaking invasion of privacy laws. These accounts are no different than what is now known as “snail mail” or what we traditionally know as letters delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Just as no one has the right to open anyone else’s mail, no one has a right to open anyone’s email which is short as you know for electronic mail.

As I said above, this is an extreme pet peeve of mine and one I am very sensitive to because if you have ever been the victim of this sort of invasion, it is an indescribable feeling of being violated nothing short in my mind of  being raped. In fact, it is a rape of your private information as your private information is taken without your consent and by force. I cannot advise and advocate enough for folks not to do it regardless of what you think the case may be. Nothing good can come from anyone breaking into anyone’s privacy unauthorized. Without siding with Mrs. Walker for her actions in all of this, I can feel her pain of being violated by her husband reading and sharing her emails. Agree or disagree,  as always, I welcome your commentary in the comment section of the blog.


Pamela said...

I just discovered your blog today through a friend of mine that posted an older post on Facebook. While looking at your home page I noticed this post. I thought you would want to know that the YouTube video has been removed.

I will continue to check out your blog. My friend posted the blog entry about Oscar Grant. It was excellent.

Marc A. Medley said...

Pamela, Thank you so much for the kind words and I am glad you are enjoying The Critical Thinker. In my view there are just some things that we all need to think a little deeper about. I often have to ask the question, "does that make sense to you?" hence the purpose of the blog The Critical Thinker. You can reach me on my website at Thanks again for your feedback.