Chester County man cleared of spying on his wife via computer software

Posted: February 01, 2013

A Tredyffrin Township man has been cleared of charges that he used software to spy on his wife.

While the couple were divorcing, Jay Anthony Ciccarone, 39, allegedly installed the program Web Watcher on her computer to read her e-mails.

His attorney, Ellen Brotman, argued that prosecutors could not prove why Ciccarone used the software.

At a pretrial proceeding last Friday, Chester County Judge James P. MacElree II dismissed charges of unlawful use of a computer, intercepting communications - both felonies - and unlawfully accessing stored communications, a misdemeanor. Other counts were dismissed in November.

Web Watcher is a legal program and is often marketed as a parental monitoring device.

"These statutes are intended to cover a different kind of conduct - to regulate law enforcement conduct and to regulate strangers' hacking into your computer," Brotman said, "not spouses' reading each other's e-mails."

Chester County First Assistant District Attorney Mike Noone said cases such as Ciccarone's were problematic.

"There are technicalities in there, intricacies with violations," he said. "It can be difficult sometimes to establish proof. But it is obviously important for law enforcement to stay ahead of technology."

Nationwide, such cases involving spouses are "extremely, extremely common," Sharon Nelson, president of Sensei Enterprises Inc. of Fairfax, Va., a computer-forensics expert, said Thursday.

"But it's pretty uncommon for a judge to let that go."


Contact Aubrey Whelan

at 610-313-8112 or awhelan@philly.com, or follow on Twitter at @aubreyjwhelan.

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