Technology is the kiss of death for illicit romance. In this era of camera phones, e-mail, text messaging and bugging devices, are we having the final fling, asks Prem Paul Ninan.
These are troubled times for unfaithful couples. Living in an age where technology has taken control of every part of the lives of people, relationships too have come to be defined by it. However, individuals across the globe who have flirted with technology in an attempt to cheat their better halves (always better when being cheated by the other, and who, these days, don’t always have to be married to one) have discovered soon enough that it is becoming increasingly difficult to cheat technology. True, technology has made it a lot easier for many to have relationships with people other than their spouses or partners, and to be quite discreet about it too. But sooner or later, very often, the same technology that helped one maintain a clandestine relationship for a while turns into the very evidence that brings about the downfall of the affair. Like a carnivore turning on its captors!
Commonly used media
Take mobile phones and the internet for instance – probably the most widely used media used by unfaithful partners for illicit affairs. The relative permanence of data stored by the use of software, is the basis for suspicious spouses-turned-sleuths to turn the heat on their partners. People use software because it gives them a sense of privacy and a feeling that they may actually be able to pull off something (no pun intended).
Consider the mobile phone. The benefits of text messaging, for instance, are many. There are many instances in which a person, while talking to his partner on the mobile phone, receives a message from someone he might not have ever met before, but with whom he has been carrying on a distance affair. The person is able to view the message and even dash off a quick salacious reply to his or her lover, only to return to the beloved’s call, without the unsuspecting partner even realising anything might have transpired.
Once the affair is on in full flow, however, it’s hard to keep your partner from being suspicious. There was a case in which a man carelessly left his mobile phone in his car and to his misfortune, his girlfriend saw a message coming in from his lover. She even went through a deleted items’ folder he did not know existed, and extracted more incriminating messages.
While most lovers are undoubtedly cautious in deleting ‘private’ messages, there is no telling when they might slip up. Ashwin Mohan, a wellness consultant, says that a friend of his who was in a dual relationship, once inadvertently sent a message intended for his lover, to his intended instead. He had hell to pay after that. Pradiksha Oommen, a third year BA student, says her friend once left her mobile phone with her boyfriend, so she could visit the loo. At that point, a message came in from her boyfriend’s male friend with whom she had been communicating for some time. Not bothering to confirm the nature of their friendship, the jealous boyfriend furiously broke off the affair.
The camera phone
Then, you also have today many mobile phones coming with built-in cameras and recording devices. These can be switched on quite casually without the unsuspecting unfaithful even knowing a thing. How one goes about this is one’s own affair, but there’s no denying that once recorded, it is quite an incriminating piece of evidence. You also have small digital voice recorders that can virtually be hidden in the hand. Atin Gupta, a marketing executive, says that one of his friends, who once got suspicious, got a girlfriend of his girlfriend to record a telephonic conversation she once had with her lover. With this evidence in hand, he confronted his one-time girlfriend, who, after an initial denial, finally gave in.
Private detective agencies commonly use such recording devices to track the activities of cheating individuals, in infidelity cases. However, Puneet Kumar, executive director of the Globe Detective Agency in Bangalore, says that his agency primarily relies on physical surveillance in such cases. “Most affairs of an illicit nature are generally physical, involving sex, and only sometimes get emotional. In order to keep track of a person’s activities, the agent’s physical presence is critical, and no device can replace this.” The detective service usually sends two agents, who carry basic cameras, on the track of the suspected cheater.
The agents prepare detailed reports of the victim’s movements and take photos only if there is absolutely no risk involved. Bugging devices can only be planted if the affair is going on in one’s own house, in which case the spouse is made to plant the device. “Otherwise, there is no telling where the affair may be taking place. It could be anywhere – hotels, cars, the workplace.”
Come now to the internet, which is also extensively used by unfaithfuls. While chat rooms have allowed illicit affairs to mushroom manifold, through the hidden identity it provides people, there are dozens of spyware programmes being developed that allow people to sneak view the suspected cyber relationships of their partners. Software programmes like Spector, developed by Spectorsoft in the US, are able to record such activities in detail. The programme operates like a quick-clicking camera, taking pictures every few seconds of whatever appears on the screen. The pictures can be played back in a slide-show fashion, like a jerky 20’s film. Prashanth Ninan, former manager, IT infrastructure at Altivo Information Technologies Pvt Ltd, Bangalore, says that there are even key-logging software programmes, that record every single key typed, including the spaces! This means, that with a little bit of effort, even an amateur can hack into the e-mail accounts of his or her partner. And what makes these softwares so attractive is that they are generally not very expensive and can therefore be sneaked into the home computer quite easily.
Credit card bills
But it’s not all about software either. There have been so many small technological advancements that have allowed couples to spy on each other fairly easily. For instance, credit card bills provide suspecting individuals ample fodder, especially with unusual gifts, restaurants, travel or unspecified charges. Unexplained bank statements, detailed phone bills containing data on unusually long calls made to certain unknown numbers, even the receipts that are billed from shopping centres, regarding unusual purchases made, can be recovered by a prowling cuckold on his partner’s trail. For some, the snooping around can become almost an obsession, as one such individual in the US candidly admitted, after spying on his wife’s cyber indulgences.
And if you think that such snooping around is confined abroad, you’re quite mistaken. Puneet says that his agency gets about 15 to 20 cases of infidelity a month, in Bangalore. A majority of the complainants are men, he says. But is it morally wrong to spy on one’s partner, using technological aids? Prashanth definitely thinks so. “It is a despicable thing to do, and anyone who does so is not worth being in a relationship,” he says. “Most people who do so are not married, but are usually in live-in affairs and are not willing to commit anyway.” Atin, who is going to be married in December, feels the same. So does Deepa Priyadarshini, who is into corporate communications. Both feel that trust should be the basis of any relationship, and that misgivings about any extra affair could always be handled at the personal level.
Whatever may be the view, it is clear that technology has made snooping a lot easier, and affairs a lot more challenging!
Signs that your partner may be cheating on you:
Sudden increase in time away from home
Decreased sexual interest
He or she is often distracted and day dreaming
He or she is often unavailable at work
He or she attends more work functions alone
Cell phone calls are not returned in timely fashion
He or she leaves house or goes to other rooms to talk on the
He or she uses the computer alone and secretly
He or she asks about your schedule more often than usual
Mileage on car is high when only short distance errands are run
Clothes smell of perfume, massage oil residue and sex
Clothes contain makeup or lipstick smudges
He or she gets the laundry done independently
Viagra usage increases