Is Spying Ethical?

Spying on Someone

When we determine if an action is ethical we are weighing the things we consider right and wrong. Morally, we have an understanding that invading someone’s privacy is wrong. We expect others to respect our privacy and we feel violated when they do not. So spying can feel like an ethical grey area because ultimately it can be a very violating intrusion. Since we are breaking our moral code we must rationalise with it by creating a strong motive for spying. So we assume that there is a context when it is morally right and there are times the outcome justifies the means. Is that true and if so, when?

There are certain times in our daily lives that surveillance is expected. When you walk in a bank or a supermarket, you understand that footage is being taken of your every move. You don’t know exactly what the footage looks like or what is done with it, and you will likely never see it. Some people find that violating, but most of us understand the trade-off of being in a privately owned business place. However, spying is defined as observing someone furtively. This means you don’t want to be noticed. It’s the secretive element that implies guilt – if there would be trouble if you were caught, are you doing something wrong?

Who Buys Spy Equipment?

The majority of people who buy spy equipment want to protect something or someone. For instance, if you are relying on a caregiver or a housekeeper at home, you might worry about trusting a stranger to be so close to your life. Or if you suspect items are being stolen or your loved ones are being mistreated, it’s important to get down to the truth so that these actions don’t continue. Since you want to capture someone’s movements when they don’t realise they are being watched, you might not tell the worker’s in your house that cameras are up.

Secret nanny cameras are a popular way for parents to observe the adult they’ve trusted to take care of their child. This raises another question, if you are working in someone’s private home do you have the same expectation of privacy? Some people that rely on caregivers like young children or the elderly can’t alert you when they’re experiencing mistreatment. Imagine if you did discover something, using spy cameras in that scenario might even feel like a valiant effort.

Some parents will purchase personal spy equipment to protect a child that is much older and independent. Tracking your teenagers GPS coordinance for instance, or monitoring any drug or alcohol abuse in the home. This is certainly an invasion of privacy but then we ask ourselves what expectations of privacy does a minor have in their parent’s home? Experts agree that this kind of surveillance can greatly damage a relationship and force your child to be dishonest with you. They say creating good communication, staying involved, and trusting your child will be more beneficial. However, these efforts can feel like a last resort when a parent doesn’t know how else to protect an unruly teenager.

Do You Have A Suspicious Partner?

Beyond the worried parent, we also have a suspicious partner. If you suspect your partner is lying to you or being unfaithful, you might feel like spying on them is the only way to get down to the truth. It’s understandable to want to protect your future by determining what kind of person you’re investing in. This is a widely controversial use of personal spy equipment, as many are torn on the ethical dilemma here. It’s incredibly intrusive to follow someone or search their phone, but if you discover something you had the right to know you might feel justified. Some people argue if you have gotten to a point of being this suspicious, you need to move on and end the relationship regardless. However, in the case of a divorce or custody battle, spying on an unfaithful or irresponsible partner can give some people the evidence they need to get what they deserve in court.

Our Final Thoughts

Some of these might feel like good or irrational reasons to spy on someone. Ultimately, the decision is an entirely personal choice. Spying might not be inherently unethical, but we know it can be used for the right and the wrong reasons. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, in some cases spying can even land you in legal trouble. Weigh the ramifications, consider what your motives are, and determine for yourself.

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