Friday, 13 June 2014

Stalking apps must be banned, U.S. lawmaker argues


For many smartphone users their built-in GPS has been a saviour, helping with directions or perhaps identifying the closest Starbucks when in need of a caffeine fix. Apps that use geolocation services have many benefits, but as lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington recently heard, there is also a dark side.
Spying apps, also known as stalking apps, are of great concern to victims of domestic abuse and some law enforcement, consumer and privacy advocates are backing their calls to ban them or at least impose restrictions.

The spying functions these apps provide are extensive: they can pinpoint someone’s physical location, follow travel routes, read email, text messages and instant chat conversations, check the phone’s internet browser history, and even listen to and record phone conversations.

The device’s microphone can be remotely activated so it’s used as a bugging device. Photos, the address book and calendar appointments can all be viewed. User names and passwords can be lifted making it easy to peek into someone’s Facebook or other online accounts.

The phone’s activities are logged on the app provider’s website and the tracker, possibly a stalker, can review them at any time when they access their secure account. The apps are stealth – they don’t appear as an installed app so whoever’s phone they are put on have no way of knowing they are there.

The app makers market their products to parents and employers looking to keep tabs on their children and employees, but also to spouses who suspect their other half of cheating.

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