Keyloggers are software that is installed into the computer that logs or records keystrokes, including passwords. The information is related back to a remote computer, where it can be viewed or monitored by a third party. There are definitely privacy issues at stake here, so are keyloggers illegal?
To begin with, the actual software itself is not illegal at all, regardless of how it is installed into the computer. Some keylogging software can be imbedded in emails or file transfers that the recipient believes to be something else entirely. Despite the surreptitious nature of delivery, it is still legal software.
Keylogging software is also legal to install on any computer that is owned by the person who installs it. Installing keylogger software is also legal if you are an authorized administrator of that computer. Basically, installing or owning the keylogging software is not illegal at all, however, keylogging software clearly has privacy issues that can lead to illegal activity facilitated by the software.
If keyloggers are used to view and use information in an illegal manner, then it is definitely illegal. For example, if keylogging software is used to find out a username and password to hack into an account, such as a bank account or email, then the use of the keylogging software is illegal. Keylogger software is also illegal if it is installed on a computer that does not belong to the person who owns or administrates it, and is installed without the owner or administrator’s knowledge.
As far as privacy is concerned, the above scenario is a perfect example of a violation of privacy laws. There are also contentious privacy issues surrounding the monitoring and keylogging of employees without their knowledge, and of spouses under suspicion, even if it is to gather incriminating evidence.
So are keyloggers illegal? Clearly, there is no straight yes or no answer, however, it is well worth keeping in consideration that there are many instances of keylogger software use that are, indeed, legal.