More and more affairs are being discovered through inadvertent use by spouses of iPads, iPhones and Apple computers that share a common Apple ID account. Sadly, some of these text messages and photographs are initially discovered by children of the marriage. There is nothing more devastating for a family.
Default settings on Apple devices allow synced text/instant messages to appear on top of a locked device. Even if an iPad is left at home locked with a password, the messages can still be reviewed by anyone looking at the screen.
Sharing an iCloud Account with a Spouse
iCloud is a cloud computing service offered by Apple that synchronizes a user’s devices such as the user’s iPhone, iPad, or MacBook. The purpose of the service is to connect the user’s devices so that the user can go back and forth from one device to another in real time and without having to save anything.
For example, if an iMessage (a hybrid of a text message and an instant message) is received by an Apple user who has multiple devices, the message will be simultaneously received on all of the devices. Typically, this service would be helpful because the user could use any of their Apple devices to respond to a message.
The system breaks down when someone shares their Apple devices but keeps a single Apple account. If you are out running errands with your iPhone and your children are somewhere else using your iPad, then messages that are received by your iCloud account will be received by each of your devices. Those messages could include pictures and messages you would not want anyone else to see
Case after case has occurred where a spouse is able to catch their partner in an affair because of iCloud and the family sharing feature. Even if you have messaging apps like “WhatsApp” that you believe are private, they are not. Any photo shared on the app will automatically be downloaded to your photo roll AND to Photo Stream on iCloud.
This means, if you share an account with your significant other, any photo is visible to them. If it’s an incriminating photo, you are out of luck and the damage has been done. It’s not only photos, but also text messages that are synced between devices, have been discovered and lead to break ups. Even calendar events synced on multiple devices have led to discovery of infidelity. While it may seem like a positive to be able to catch your spouse in the middle of an affair, there are ramifications if steps are not taken to separate your devices from the shared iCloud.
iCloud Accounts & Divorce
Assume you are on the path to divorce and are emailing or texting confidential exchanges with your attorney. Well, if you still share that Apple ID and iCloud, your spouse may have access to every single thing you send to your attorneys. Sharing the ID can be hazardous in more ways than initially thought. The originally perceived convenience can be transformed into a nightmare in seconds. Spouses can also follow each other by using the “Find my iPhone” feature.
So what? No big deal, you will just split the account, thus creating different iClouds. WRONG. As of now, the only way to separate your account from your ex is to create an entirely new account and basically start from scratch. The way digital downloads, pictures, etc. are structured makes them next to impossible to transfer from one Apple account to another. While you can most certainly share these downloads, when going through a divorce, sharing is often a hard pill to swallow and in some cases, out of the question.
This means ideally, both of you would have access to the old account but create new ones to have some privacy. Can you see the can of worms just waiting to be opened? And with the definition of online property being expanded, iTunes libraries could very easily become a divorce issue. Who gets to keep the account that has access to over hundreds or thousands of songs that one party will most likely have to repurchase all over again? The issues with sharing an Apple ID and thus, iCloud are endless.
Using iCloud May Sacrifice Privacy
So what does all of this mean? It means that privacy is sacrificed for convenience. Be aware that sharing an account with your spouse could potentially lead to incriminating evidence that will set in motion the divorce you never expected. Know that sharing an account with children could be just as hazardous and damaging to their psyche.
Be cautious with your passwords, they can be used against you in ways you never expected, and know that privacy on any electronic device is never foolproof. So, think twice before you share an iCloud account, think twice before you press send, and think twice about the ramifications because once it’s out there, it’ll never go away and in most cases, neither will the consequences. Users need to be aware how the various default settings work and these should be disabled if one of the devices is used by another family member, especially if one of the users is a doctor, lawyer or transmits sensitive protected information.
What to do About It
To ensure none of this happens to you, make sure that each person in your family that owns any type of Apple device has their own iCloud account. That includes your 9 year old child. If he is old enough to use an iPad or iPhone then he is old enough to have an account that is separate from yours. The problem is that iTunes only allows children 13 and older to have their own iTunes account.
The solution for children under 13 years is to have an account as part of a Family Shared account (separate but under the umbrella of an adult guardian account). Another problem is that Family Sharing has its own risks since it enables “Find my Friend” location tracking by default. Do not share your iCloud account with anyone. No really, do not share your iCloud account with anyone! No one – absolutely no one. Doing so could lead to a dissipation of marital assets claim in your divorce.
Suzanne Griffiths is the managing shareholder, CFO, and co-founder of Griffiths Law PC. She was recognized by the Best Lawyers in America© in 2019 for family law and was selected to Colorado Superlawyers from 2005-2018. She was also recognized in 5280 magazines for Top Lawyer in Family Law in Denver from 2016-2018.
Nick Nyberg is a Managing Partner at Live Consulting in Denver, CO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 242-8044