Keylogger Ethical & Legal issues

mc87 used Ask the Experts™
When using a keylogger what are the possible ethical & Legal issues?
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Most states nowadays impose criminal and civil liability on people who install programs that access computers without the knowledge and consent of the computer's owner. So unless you own the computer, there's a lot of potential for trouble.

But that does not apply to a company owned computer that you use at work.  If the company owns an employee's computer, they can install a key logger.  Again, it boils down to who owns the computer

Ethically, installing a keylogger makes you a scumbag asshole.

Keylogging for legal purposes, with or without the knowledge of the end user is always permitted. This is in legal terms only!
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no if it is ur own computer that u wanna monitor.
here is a smart keylogger i know of.
For some of us scumbags, monitoring software is similar to surveillance cameras, access control logs, telephone logs, telephone recording, etc.

There is great forensic value in recording and documenting activity (or lack thereof).  But, it comes at the price of privacy.

Video and audio surveillance are limited when it comes to recording activity on a computer.  Instead of watching a person walk through a door and carry away product...the valuable item is transmitted via FTP, outside of an auditable e-mail system.  Or an invoice/order is altered, allowing a $5,000 TV to ship to an unverified address.

Keystroke logging alone does not make an effective monitoring system.  Application analysis, network stats, as well as other metrics all combine to form a useful monitoring solution.

Potential for abuse is high, especially when keystroke logs are not stored securely, and access to those logs is not logged/audited.  That's why many remote support packages (like GoToAssist) will log IP addresses, times of access, user logins, etc. should they be needed in forensic analysis.  Important to know who did the typing, not just what the content is.

Unless, of course, you're only using keystroke logging to steal information or spy on a known user.  Then I'd lean in favor of Tiras25's professional assessment.

btanExec Consultant
Distinguished Expert 2018
I will say that it really depends on how the keylogger is used and the scope of usage. Factors below will determine the legal and ethical aspects:
a) What is the motivation for the use of keylogger? Legal means or intrusive stealth
b) What is the rule of engagement or agreement established? Explicit where user being logged are aware and stilll willing to do so, Implicitly for the sake of bigger objective to savage nation interest
c) What is deliverable for use of it? Submission as evidences or use for malicious intent to extort and intrude privacy rule

Good guys use it for surveillance and bad guys use it typically for tangible derivable like money. But the software by itself is legal software (unless we are saying copyright codes re-used). It then depends on the user and outcome of usage - are there prior contractual agreement make in presence. It is more the moral issue whether you will start the monitoring, but it is anyway legal, allowed and never prohibited.

So what about FBI doing the spying stuffs, it is the outcome that will determine the "rights" see @

Also it can be policy driven for audit purpose - knowing it is what it claims, see @

It really is in the eye of the beholder - understand the motivation, usage processes and outcome derived. It should guide in debating the ethical (privacy agreement) and legal (black and white agreement) aspects.

If you are using the keylogger to secure your computer or network it is not an issue. But if you use the spy product, keyloggers on other then your computer without knowledge of its owner it is a crime.

NSA's and other US Intel's policy

"It's only illegal if you get caught"

Then to quote Bill Clinton: "Deny, deny, deny"

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