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Dear Margo

Dear Margo column

Q. A reader of yours recommended installing monitoring software on a spouse’s computer. I am a computer tech, and I can tell you that installing monitoring software or key loggers on another person’s computer without their knowledge or consent violates federal law and possibly state laws, as well. The federal government has enacted laws that make it illegal to covertly intercept electronic information. The United States Code, title 18, states that interception of wire and electronic communications is illegal. This means that using a key logger in order to spy on one’s spouse is a violation of federal law. Furthermore, state regulations may carry additional penalties for those who use key loggers on unsuspecting people.

In order to install a monitoring application, you must be the owner of the computer, or obtain the consent of all the users of the monitored machine. Parents can legally install the software on their minor child’s computer. (Covert computer monitoring of a child over the age of 18 is illegal.) When installed on a computer that does not meet the above criteria, monitoring software technically becomes spyware. Spyware is illegal.

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A. Thanks for the info. I do not mean to be a scofflaw, but if a woman catches her husband (or vice versa) getting up to no good on the computer (a not infrequent occurrence), my guess is that the spouse who’s caught is not going to respond to this situation by bringing charges for employing spyware. Just sayin’.

Q. I’m the oldest of three, all of us in our 30s. My brothers and I went through varying degrees of closeness growing up, but as adults, we didn’t really stay friends. When I got married at 20, my husband enjoyed my brothers’ company, and in fact, the three of them often ganged up on me, leaving me alone with our young kids.

Fast-forward 15 years: My husband and I were struggling in our marriage. There were plenty of issues, but the catalyst was when I had an affair. Finally, my husband decided he wanted to fix our marriage, but by this time I was emotionally done. We divorced, and although things were difficult at first, we developed an amicable relationship and are co-parenting our kids and doing fine. We’re each dating someone else. (I am seeing the man I had the affair with, who also divorced.)

My brothers stopped talking to me upon learning of my infidelity. Since then, one of them eased up a bit at Christmas, but refused to allow me in his home at Easter. My other brother responded to a written apology with a scathing response that made it clear that family doesn’t come first. Even my ex is frustrated with them. He says he doesn’t understand what exactly I did to them, and he’s glad he has his family, who stand behind a member no matter what.

My parents are upset and trying to stay out of it, but I feel awful for them. I understand that what I did was wrong — believe me — and have dealt with the consequences. I didn’t have enough of a relationship with the brothers before to make me really miss them now, but I want things to at least be civil at family gatherings. Suggestions?

A. You really have done nothing to harm your brothers, and their self-righteousness is deplorable. At the next family gathering, be cordial, and if they make it uncomfortable for you, do consider seeing your parents at other times. I see no reason for you to wear the scarlet “A” in this day and age, and I think the brothers sound odd.

All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dearmargo.

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