Is it illegal to go through someone’s phone?

When you suspect your girlfriend or spouse is cheating, you try to go through their phone. It is natural to check your loved one’s phone if you see it lying on the desk. It may kill your relationship forever, sometimes. 

Sometime, you get someone’s unlocked phone and start browsing something to know to whom this phone belongs or unintentionally you start to check photos or videos to find something interesting or entertaining. However, it may be annoying for the person to whom this phone belongs. Is it legal to go through someone’s phone without permission?

When you check others’ phones, they feel upset because they may feel under surveillance. Your mobile phone is a mirror. It captures your feelings and intentions. One of the US companies surveyed about phone privacy and checking other’s phones where they found that 60% of the people felt it undesirable to look into other’s phones. 

It’s about the natural and behavior of a person, but what about Law? 

Is it illegal to go through someone’s phone?


Laws vary from place to place. Checking someone’s mobile or tracking one’s location without permission is illegal in some countries but not in other’s. So before checking someone’s phone, know the law of the land where you live.

In general, checking or using someone’s phone without permission is illegal and unethical. Before trying to check anyone’s phone without permission, you should know the law that is it legal to look through someone’s phone without permission. 

The Legal status of going through someone’s phone

A smartphone is more or less a miniature computer. It shows directions, helps to send and receive mail, camera for prying, and so on. Spouses go through their spouse’s cameras when their relationship is in shackles and want to collect proof to support the case. Also, employers check the phone of employees if they suspect the employee is sharing confidential information with unauthorized persons or breaching the policies of the organization. 

The US Fraud and Abuse Act says sharing passwords is illegal. Often, employers can prosecute employees sharing passwords. Sometimes hackers break into vulnerable websites to steal information. The punishment for hacking is 1 year imprisonment for the first time, and for the second time, it is 10 years. Intruding into electronic communication devices is a violation of federal and state wiretapping laws.

If your romantic partner just sneaked for fun, it may not result in severe punishments. Just an invasion of privacy may range between $5000 and $50,000. The aggrieved party can file a civil suit for damages in divorce cases. This perfectly answers the question is going through someone’s phone illegal?

On the contrary, if he did something to destroy or change the information, it is considered a felony, and may be behind bars for 3 years and have to pay a fine of $10,000.

When is accessing another’s cell phone permitted?

If the law enforcement department wants to prove the legality of a case, they can get a court order to access your phone. When you use an iPhone, which has a backup in iCloud, the authorities may approach Apple for access information. However, the Electronic communications privacy act of 1986 states that legal authorities need to obtain a court order or warrant before accessing anyone’s phone.

Also, when you have the permission of your partner, relative, or colleague to look into the phone, snooping on another’s phone is permitted. However, in most cases, it is never okay. 

Impact of going through someone’s Phone

There are many impacts of going through someone’s phone without permission which can include trust and privacy issues in the relationship. 

  • Trust issues: When a spouses has trust issues, he/ she goes through the phone. Continuous monitoring may lead to permanent impairment of relationships.
  • Privacy: Everyone wants privacy. However, spouse or other close relatives feel they have the right to check the phone of their loved ones. This breaches the privacy of the person. 

Frequently Asked Questions


Is going through someone’s phone illegal?

Mostly, no. However, if you have permission, it is fine.

Can employers go through employees’ phones? 

Yes, an employer can go through any employee’s lockers, desks, and mobile phones if there is reasonable doubt about his conduct.

Can parents go through children’s phones? 

No, usually children deserve privacy. However, if parents desire to investigate something unusual happening to their child, they can check their children’s mobile.

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Checking your partner’s phone is wrong under all circumstances. Everyone has doubts is looking through someone’s phone illegal.  If you have permission to check, it is fine. Otherwise, NO. 

Usually, one in three women and one in two men share their passwords with their spouse. If you are snooping into your partner’s mobile, beware of the law! The law doesn’t allow checking on others’ phones without permission!

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