Searching Your Partner’s Cell Phone Is Illegal, Here’s Why

Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Among those under 35, 67% of women and 56% of men say they have searched their partner’s phone.

DIGITAL INTIMACY – To search or not to search your partner’s phone, this is the question that 4 out of 10 French people have already asked themselves… Before answering it in the affirmative. This is revealed a Flashs/IFOP study for The Geek’s Diary published this Thursday, May 11, which questions French women and men about the digital intimacy of their partner. Read his private messages, check the people he or she follows on social networks, look at his call history…

Practices that are common, since the study highlights that one in four French people say they search their partner’s smartphone from time to time, rarely or regularly. This figure increases drastically among those under 35, for whom 67% of women and 56% of men surveyed say they have “succumbed” to this temptation. Despite this banality, violating a partner’s digital privacy is illegal and can sometimes be part of a continuum of domestic violence. Decryption with Maître Migueline Rosset, lawyer in family law, persons and their heritage and Maître Anne-Sophie Laguens, lawyer in personal law and criminal law.

What are digital privacy breaches?

According to the figures of the study, 28% of French people have already consulted without their knowledge the private messages of the person with whom they were in a relationship. But this dig, which English speakers call the « snooping »is not limited to that: it also includes looking at the photos and videos on their device (23% of respondents), their call history (20%), their calendar or their location ( 12%), as well as its presence on social networks.

So many practices that fall within the scope of the violation of privacy according to Maître Rosset, who explains: “The violation of digital privacy is the fact of taking knowledge, misappropriating, recording or transmitting someone’s data, by all the means available today through technology. This can be messages, but also filming the person without their knowledge through their computer or phone, reading their emails, accessing their cloud…”

These acts are condemned by articles 226 and following of the Penal Code on invasions of privacy, as well as the 226-15, which protects the secrecy of correspondence. When committed by the spouse or partner of the victim or the partner linked to the victim by a civil pact of solidarity, these acts are punishable by a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment and 60,000 euro fine.

And if in practice, there is little chance that you will be sentenced to such a sentence for having watched your spouse’s DMs during his nap, Maître Laguens, lawyer at the Paris Bar, recalls: “It is an illegal practice. Admittedly, it is extremely rarely prosecuted in isolation, but it is often taken into account in a set of other offences, particularly in cases of domestic violence. Searching the cell phone of his or her partner also appears on the Violentometer [ndlr. un outil qui permet de mesurer la violence au sein d’un couple]. »

The « snooping » and domestic violence

This is also what the second part of the study shows, which looks at the correlations between violation of digital privacy and a climate of control or domestic violence. Thus, among people who have suffered physical violence from their partner, 52% say that the latter has already looked in their phone, compared to 27% of those who have never suffered violence.

For Mr. Rosset, these violations of digital privacy can be part of a set of broader violence: “This is what is fairly generically called the cyberviolences’, a domination of one who comes to control the other, to monitor him. We see quite inconceivable things: people who have to have their phone camera on all the time so that their partner can see where they are, spy apps, cloud hacks… And sometimes, even in the courts, there is has people who don’t see the problem. Opposite, you have exhausted victims, who have the impression of being constantly observed and are always on the alert. »

Asked how to prove that one has been a victim of « snooping »especially in a court, the lawyer explains that it is possible to have bundles of clues. “If the accused uses information that only existed on the victim’s phone or computer, then we can cross-check that can convince the judge, she explains by way of example. But I am not sure that we can enter a police station and be taken care of easily on this subject, even if on the basis of civil law and criminal law, we should… ”

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