Are Keyloggers Legal? Or Illegal?

There is much heated debate about the utilization of keyloggers and with so many individuals using them to track cheating spouses as well as companies using them to monitor employees behaviors and production, those for an against them being legal all have seemingly valid arguments. However, the question that needs to be answered has nothing to do with morality; it has to do with defining what the law states in regards to their use, as this is the only evidence that will be deemed acceptable should one choose to take a stance with a partner or employer.

The biggest contention for those who oppose these software programs is that on a large scale they do invade one’s privacy. Unfortunately many of the laws surrounding electronic devices do not have specific limitations or restrictions for using them and therefore, keyloggers are still considered legal in many parts of the United States and elsewhere in the world.

legal or illegal

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)

In 1986 Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act as a way for the public at large to be able to keep their private information safe while at the same time allowing government agencies the license to monitor and record wiretaps, telephone calls and electronic data. The idea behind this act was to offer a balance between the privacy rights of citizens and to also allow the federal government to gain access to information relating to criminal and unlawful activity.

Since its initial passing, more acts have been passed in an effort to narrow the scope and better define what this act does and does not allow. Such amendments include the Federal Wiretap Act (FWA) and the Stored Communication Act (SCA). Neither of those acts includes making keyloggers illegal either.

Why it’s Still Legal to Use Keyloggers

Much of the confusion and discrepancies surrounding keyloggers comes down to how the acts are interpreted by the general public and the court systems. Even the federal government can’t agree on where the line should be drawn as far as what defines infringing upon one’s privacy rights. Most recently many court systems have attempted to interpret the protective acts in such a way that allowing the general public’s key strokes to be monitored should be seen as being unconstitutional and a definitive invasion of privacy.

The blatant conflict within defining these acts continues to cause a conundrum across the globe and in addition continues to cause conflict between employees and employers because the lines remain blurred, and the definitions and interpretations unclear. Many employees violently oppose employers spying on what they are doing even during work hours and feel that keyloggers are unlawful.

Because someone who installs keylogger software must have administrative rights on the system that it is being installed on, this gives them full access and license to do so as they see fit. Because employers can argue that there are legitimate reasons as to why activity on a computer needs to be monitored and surveyed, the practice of utilizing them is deemed as legal and in many cases, necessary. Companies have the right to protect their personal assets and information from being misused and shared and thus, using that argument alone will bypass any one employee from arguing that it is an invasion of privacy.

On an individual level, many parents utilize this software as a way to protect their children when they are online, which again is legal and recommended by people and professionals across the board. For the most part, those who use keylogger programs are doing so in a lawful and ethical way. The flipside is that with this software, there are many unethical and unlawful uses as well. Criminals are able to gain access to personal information, passwords and bank account information and therein lies the issues with those that are opposed to such software programs.

Canada Law and Keylogger Software

Much like the US Canada also have a Privacy Act that is in place and also like the US, their Privacy Act is written with many gray areas, making keylogger software definitely legal for private homes and employers. With the current acts and laws, as long as the person who installed the keylogger program is the owner of the computer or device that the software is being installed on, they have full and legal rights to utilize such software.

The laws and regulations become less arduous when individuals who are not owners of the computers or devices attempt to use them. If for example an ex-spouse or partner installs it on a computer or device without that person’s knowledge, a law suit can be filed and many have been brought up on criminal charges for doing so. In these instances it is because the installer is not the owner of the device and therefore infringes upon the computer owner’s privacy.

UK Laws and Keylogger Software

AS previously discussed, the laws and privacy acts also state that it is legal in the UK for individuals and companies to utilize keylogger software on any computer that they rightfully own. Many companies in the UK have a disclaimer in their employee manuals that specifically states that they have the right to monitor all employee activity in the case of suspicion and otherwise.

It is illegal only in instances where the information obtained is used in an unlawful way, for example as a way to collect passwords or using bank account information in an effort to steal personal funds.

If you’d like to download a free trial of Gecko Monitor, head to our homepage here.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply