Is It Illegal To Spy On Someone’s Cell Phone? All You Need To Know!

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It is illegal to spy on someone’s phone without the person’s consent if he or she is an adult. However, you can secretly spy on a child’s smartphone if you own the device. You can legally spy on someone’s cell phone if you let the person know about it.

Why would you want to spy on others’ smartphones? It can be out of concern or due to a lack of trust. It was out of concern for me as I wanted my niece to be safe while surfing the internet. But you might want to spy on your partner or employees due to a lack of trust.

Regardless, it is important to understand when it is illegal or legal to spy on another person’s phone. The answer depends on the situation. This guide walks you through different scenarios and how you can legally spy on others’ cell phones.

Jealous man spying on his wife phone call

Is It Illegal To Spy On Other’s Cell Phones Without Permission?

It is illegal to spy on others’ phones without taking their permission.

Let me put it this way. How will you feel if someone is reading the texts you are sending to someone or going through your phone calls without letting you know? It will feel like the other person is invading your privacy, right? It might also lead to emotional distress.

Someone peeking at others’ phones without permission is considered a breach of privacy and is a punishable act. The U.S. has a set of rules to prohibit such activities. These regulations are listed under the Federal Wiretap Act of 1968.

The Wiretap Act is now updated by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986. Traditionally, the Federal wiretapping laws only addressed conversation through hard telephone lines. But now, it addresses all electronic communications, including smartphones and computers.

You can view this YouTube video by Joshua Roberts for more clarity on how Wiretap Act works. In this video, he explains the regulations entitled under the Wiretap Act and how recording someone else’s conversation is illegal.

YouTube player

Hence, if you are spying on your spouse’s cell phone without consent, you can end up in jail or paying fines for criminal charges.

Police officer arrests a man

Similarly, if you feel someone is spying on your device, you can confront and file a complaint against the person. This way, you can levy civil penalties upon the offender under federal wiretap laws.

Many ways exist to check if someone is spying on your phone. You can check the enabled root permissions or utility smartphone codes.

If you find that your device is rooted (Android) or jailbroken (iPhone), chances are that someone has installed monitoring software to keep an eye on your phone’s activities.

Or you can also look for physical signs. These signs can include the following:

  • Faster battery drain
  • Increased internet usage
  • Uncharacteristic overheating
  • Unauthorized smartphone activity
  • Performance deterioration

You can refer to our guide if you want to understand how to do this in detail.

How To Legally Spy On Someone’s Cell Phone?

As mentioned earlier, a few scenarios exist when it is legal to spy. You can spy on a target device in a legal manner in the following situations:

Tracking A Child

Tracking a child is a matter of safety. You would want to monitor your child’s phone activities to ensure he or she is safe. The law understands this. Hence, you can legally spy on the phones of minor children without consent. But if your child is an adult, i.e., over 18 years, you still have to take consent.

While spying on a child’s smartphone is legal, it is still best to inform them about the spy app. They may think you don’t trust them if they find out on their own.

Hence, you should explain to your child why installing the spying app is important in an appropriate way. Also, let them know what phone andinternet activity you plan to monitor. This will help build trust.

When I installed a spy app on my niece’s smartphone, I let her know beforehand about the software, what it would do, and how I would track her activities.

Taking Consent

Another way of legally spying on someone’s cell phone is by taking permission. This usually happens with your partner. 

You might feel that something is happening between your spouse and someone else, and you might want to check your partner’s loyalty. In that case, it can be tempting to spy on your cheating spouse. But you can do this only after taking the spouse’s permission.

Couple using a smartphone

If you want to track him or her because of a lack of trust, you can ask for permission by saying that it is for better understanding in the future. If it is for safety reasons, you can simply let the other spouse know that you want to install spying apps on their phone.

If the spouse gives expressed consent, you can legally spy on his or her cell phone. But if your spouse denies it, you should respect the decision and avoid spying on the spouse’s phone.

Tracking Your Employees

As a business owner, you might want to track your employee’s phone to ensure they are not sharing confidential information or misusing the company’s smartphones. Tracking employees’ smartphones is allowed because this is something where a single mistake can cost heavily to the business.

Angry boss yelling at the phone

However, you should meet the following conditions to legally spy on your employee’s cell phone activity:

  • You can only spy on a phone you use
  • The employees should be aware of the fact that you installed spy apps on the device

Different Ways To Spy On A Cell Phone

If you meet the conditions to legally spy on someone else’s phone, you can do it in multiple ways. I have listed some of the best ways below:

By Using Spying Software

A cell phone spyware is a spy app that lets you monitor the activities on the device of the target person. These spy apps can track almost everything on the target device, such as:

  • Text messages
  • Phone calls
  • Chats on social media accounts
  • Location tracking
  • Text input tracking
  • Internet browsing

There are many spy apps you can use for tracking the target person. One of the best spying apps is mSpy. mSpy has all the features that a premium spy app must have for efficient tracking.

An image of the mSpy landing page which says "The Best Phone Tracker For Parental Control"

For instance, it has a keyword logger, tracking devices with GPS, activity monitoring, etc. Moreover, you can also read the target user’s WhatsApp chats or spy on his or her Gmail account.

Get started instruction on how to use a phone tracker app for parental control

You can get started with mSpy in three easy steps. All you need to do is create your account, pick your plan, and get started. You can refer to this mSpy installation video guide on YouTube for installing the application.

YouTube player

The pricing of the mSpy app is as follows:

One-month subscription3-month subscriptionAnnual subscription

The mSpy app is compatible with iOS 11 and newer and Android 4 and above versions. When you install mSpy on the target device and start monitoring, you can manage and see everything from a web dashboard.

MSpy website app dashboard

While mSpy is a paid app, you can use many other alternative spying apps. You can read more about these free and paid mSpy alternatives in our guide here.

By Accessing Voicemails

Installing a spy app on the target person’s device is an excellent way to spy on other’s devices. However, you can also spy on a phone without installing any software. One of the ways to do that is by accessing voicemail.

Young man in a plaid shirt with a smartphone on a white background.

While spy apps enable you to access someone’s phone text messages, you can get their voice messages if you have the other person’s phone number and PIN.

By Using Cloud-Backup Services

Cloud services are increasingly adopted in today’s digital world. According to Gartner, worldwide end-user spending on public cloud is expected to grow by 20.7% to reach $591.8 billion by 2023.

Suppose you use cloud services for backing up your digital information like chats, media, etc. Now, if you know the id and password for the cloud backup on your spouse’s phone, you can access the data without having physical access to the device.


Is It Illegal To Track Someone's Phone Without Them Knowing?

It is illegal to track someone’s phone without them knowing if they are an adult. But if you are spying on a device you own and is used by your child, you can legally spy without any consent.

Is Checking Someone's Phone An Invasion Of Privacy?

Checking someone’s phone is an invasion of privacy if you do it without the other person’s permission. Checking cell phone activity can give you a hint about who the phone user is interacting with or where he or she has been, which is invading the person’s private affairs.

Is It A Crime To Look Through Someone's Phone?

Looking through someone’s phone secretly is a crime under the federal law of Wiretap Acts and can call for legal action. These acts protect a person’s privacy by prohibiting anyone from snooping on others’ phones without consent.

Final Verdict

Usually, it is illegal to spy on someone’s cell phone. However, the exact legal and illegal use of spy apps for spying depends on the situation.

You can spy legally if you are spying on a child’s phone or if you have consent while spying on an adult’s phone. In other cases, it is illegal. You can use apps like mSpy or its alternatives for spying.

Hopefully, this article will give you a clear idea of whether it is illegal to spy on someone’s cell phone. However, you can comment if you have any questions, and we will get back to you with an answer.

About The Author

  • Kailash Vaviya

    Kailash Vaviya is a freelance writer who started writing in 2019 and has never stopped since then as he fell in love with it. He has a soft corner for technology and likes to read, learn, and write about it. His content is focused on providing information to help build a brand presence and gain engagement. You can connect with him on: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Photo of author

Kailash Vaviya

Kailash Vaviya is a freelance writer who started writing in 2019 and has never stopped since then as he fell in love with it. He has a soft corner for technology and likes to read, learn, and write about it. His content is focused on providing information to help build a brand presence and gain engagement. You can connect with him on: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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