There is a reason why most of us have our phones locked with a password. This is because the contents of someone’s mobile phone are deeply personal and intimate. Every person has a right to privacy and violating this form of privacy, for any reason is a serious breach of ethics. So, accessing someone’s phone is definitely not ethical, but is it illegal too?
The short answer is yes, it’s illegal to access someone’s phone without their permission. At the end of this article, you will learn why such a seemingly-mundane act is illegal, what constitutes this crime, and what steps you can take when your phone has been accessed without your permission.
Is it Possible to Access Someone’s Phone Without Them Knowing?
Yes, it is definitely possible to access someone’s phone without them knowing. Although every smartphone today includes an option to lock the phone with either a pin code, an alphanumeric password, biometrics, or a facial recognition system, these are not fool-proof and can be bypassed with certain actions and software.
Is it Illegal to Access Someone’s Phone Without Permission?
This isn’t a simple legal question to answer, as it largely depends on which country you are in. Assuming that this is in the context of United States laws, unauthorized access to someone’s mobile phone is illegal and is covered under the laws that pertain to the right to privacy.
Situations Where The Law Permits Tracking Someone’s Phone
The situations can vary but they must be valid reasons that the law allows for. The following are some examples.
- When you have the owner’s explicit permission and consent – If you’re tracking a group call, all parties must be informed and give consent to tracking.
- If you’re monitoring an employee – This specific law may also vary from state to state within the United States. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 allows business owners to monitor employee verbal and written communication as long as there is a legitimate professional reason for doing so.
- If you’re a parent protecting your child – As long as you’re the legal guardian of a child under 18 years old, you have the legal right to track your child’s phone. In fact, a law was recently passed, known as Kevin and Avonte’s law, which seeks to assist the development of child-tracking devices through funding.
- Any other valid reasons that the law allows – It’s always best to look at current state laws wherever you’re located.
Consequences of Using Phone Spy Software Without Consent
It can be a bit ironic that you need consent to use spy software on the person you’re tracking. But nowadays, using spy software without consent can be very risky. If you’re unprepared and do this incorrectly, it can land you in a lot of legal trouble, among other serious consequences, such as:
- It can be considered stalking – The use of mobile phone spying software for recording calls is legal, as long as at least one party is aware of it beforehand. Using software primarily to secretly spy on phones, access emails, and record phone conversations is punishable under the federal wiretapping law and are subject to criminal and civil penalties.
- It can put a dent in your personal relationship – Snooping through another person’s phone is an act of violating that person’s privacy and most people would take offense to it. In effect, going through someone’s phone without their consent can strain or even break your personal relationship with the offended party. They might never trust you again.
Can You Go Through Someone’s Phone Without Their Consent?
Yes, technically, you can go through someone’s phone without their consent. However, going through someone’s phone without consent, in almost all cases, is not okay. There is a myriad of reasons why, from legal issues to ethical issues.
How to Find Out If Your Phone Is Being Tracked?
There are situations wherein someone has secretly installed tracking software on your phone when you were unaware. Fortunately, there are telltale signs that indicate that your phone has been tampered with and is being tracked. If you suspect this off your phone, here are some common signs that you should pay attention to:
An increase in data usage
- Spyware transmits all the activity it’s recorded from your device to its servers, and doing this consumes your device’s own mobile data or Wi-Fi. After some time, the cumulative amount of data usage from the spyware will be too significant to ignore.
- To check data usage for iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular or Settings > Mobile Data. See the apps that are toggled on and how much data they’re consuming. For Android, go to Settings, and depending on your specific device, go to either Connections or Network and Internet.
Faster battery depletion
- Since the software is active 24/7 on your device when it’s tracking your data, it will tend to drain your battery and you will notice this sharp increase in battery usage. Related to this is the unexplained overheating of the battery. If you’re not using it in a hot environment and it’s not running intensive applications, then it’s likely to be spyware. The heavy toll caused by the spyware on the battery would cause it to heat up.
The phone becomes slower than normal
- Due to an excessive amount of unused apps, and uncleared caches, phones usually become slower.
The phone frequently freezes
- Since the spy software eats up a lot of RAM, it can often overwhelm it and cause intermittent freezing and spontaneous crashing.
Coded or cryptic SMS
- Unknown messages containing codes from unknown senders are never good news as they can either be scams or spyware. Often, they would contain links to certain websites or apps. It’s best to not engage with the SMS as simply clicking on these links can sometimes install malware on your device.
The question of whether it is illegal or not to access someone’s phone without their permission is a complex one. There are a variety of factors that need to be considered, including the relationship between the two parties and the intentions of the person who accessed the phone. However, as a general rule, it is advisable to be cautious and obtain consent before accessing someone’s phone. Not only will this help to avoid any legal complications, but it will also show respect for the individual’s privacy.