London School of Economics researchers have found that women are twice as likely to snoop on their man’s digital habits than the other way around. The Daily Telegraph reports that:

14% of wives spy on their husband’s e-mails
13% read his texts
10% check his Web-surfing history

An Aussie survey found that one in three cellphone users are text-message snoops, with most of them doing it while their partner was in the shower!
And 73% of Aussie wives who checked their husband’s texts found out things they wish they hadn’t. Only goes to show once again, that there’s really nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 7:21).

But as CNN’s Netiquette column notes, sometimes the e-espionage is accidental:

You grab your girlfriend’s phone to check the time — and bam, there’s a text from her ex-boyfriend. You crack open your daughter’s laptop to show her a Flickr album — kapow, there’s her friends-only Blogspot in fully accessible glory. You surf to Gmail the day after your friend used your computer, and hello, friend’s inbox.

So if you want to snoop, have snooped, or wish you hadn’t snooped, what now? Netiquette proposes three rules to keep our consciences clear and and our relationships healthy:

1. Don’t click on anything
The second you make a move to read the rest of the text or scroll to see more of the illicit e-mail, you’ve gone from the snooping equivalent of manslaughter to murder.

2. Figure out why you want to snoop.
Everyone’s favorite cat-killer (curiosity, that is) is a powerful force, but for most of us it’s not potent enough to compromise our personal moral codes. So if you’re just dying to check a certain relation’s browsing history or e-mails or texts, there are likely some real-life red flags that are bugging you….So man up and ask him or her about it.

3. Know when to call yourself out
What’s making you feel all squirmy? Are you bothered by the fact that you saw something that wasn’t meant for you, or by the content of what you saw? ….Take a deep breath, and reveal exactly what you were doing (grabbing her phone to find Tommy’s number, as requested), exactly what you saw (Was that a MySpace shot of a dude with his shirt off?!), and exactly how it’s making you feel.

I would add two more recommendations. First, install Covenant Eyes and make your husband or wife (a parent, friend, or pastor if unmarried) your accountability partner for your browsing habits. Second, have an open access policy with all digital devices. That means that your wife or husband can use all your digital devices at any time, that he/she has passwords to all your accounts for Twitter, Facebook, email, etc., and that you encourage regular checking. That’s not snooping. That’s Biblical wisdom.

  • What time is it

    “install Covenant Eyes” – a technology professional looked at CE and this is his review: like it would be pretty easy to get a false sense of security from it.

  • Luke Gilkerson

    Hey David, great post! It was really nice meeting you today as well.I have a few comments about Scott’s review of Covenant Eyes.1. Scott’s circumvention method would likely work for any filtering or monitoring program out there. If Covenant Eyes is providing only a false sense of security, then nearly the entire Internet security market is doing the same. Perhaps that is Scott’s point, but it’s hard to tell. For years Covenant Eyes has worked hard to prevent simpler and more widely used circumvention methods, and it has been successful.2. Technology is only as good as the people who use it properly. If the thousands of testimonies of Covenant Eyes users and accountability partners are any indication, using Covenant Eyes is often seen as an extension of honest friendships and relationships. Covenant Eyes Accountability allows people to choose openness and honesty about where they go and what they do online. Could someone establish a pretense of honesty in order to secretly indulge their desires online? Of course. But with enough technical savvy, they could do this with any software product. Someone can also walk down to the local convenience store and buy pornography. They could go to the local library and surf for whatever they want.Many, many Covenant Eyes users have discovered how something as simple as Internet accountability at home or at work has helped to train their minds to think differently about how they use the Web. Clearly, Covenant Eyes isn’t for someone like Scott (as he admits), but why assume it is worthless for everyone else?3. I appreciate honest reviews of a product, but Scott’s review borders on irresponsible. To clearly detail a circumvention method only places temptations before the hundreds of thousands of people who have discovered a system that works well for them. There are plenty of ways to publish a review without this kind of specificity.4. The fear of the collection of personal information is not based on any knowledge of Covenant Eyes or its business practices, but assumptions. Covenant Eyes does not log keystrokes. Covenant Eyes does not capture and record text on the page itself. The only bits of information the Covenant Eyes Report gathers are URLs and page titles, which means if a secure site is used, all the Report gathers is a long, cryptic Web address. Furthermore, there are plenty of other software options that also look at and collect information about Web addresses (anti-virus, built-in parental controls, and even operating systems themselves can do this). Lastly, it is important to remember that all information is stored on the Covenant Eyes servers for 30 days. After that, not even Covenant Eyes can recover it.