The phone that every stalker will want
Is stalker-tech not only with us, but at risk of becoming normalised? Phones sold by the California-based Spyfones track the user without their knowledge, monitoring everything from location, messages and emails to call history, searches and app use. They are aimed at companies that wish to guard against improper usage and also offer “spousal peace of mind”. Models include an iPhone and a Samsung. A spokesman for Spyfones said that British interest was driving significant traffic to its site.
Recently, I wrote that there was a safety argument for an app (ReplyASAP) that disabled mobiles if teenagers didn’t respond to anxious parents. Spyfones is a very different proposition. A company phone shouldn’t be an excuse for unacceptable levels of surveillance and intrusion. (The European court of human rights has just amended an earlier ruling about corporate monitoring of internet use.) Then there’s this “spousal peace of mind”. What they mean is that people would be able to spy on each other, not just husbands and wives, but former partners, too. This isn’t just disturbing and inappropriate, it’s dangerous.
Couples give each other smartphones as presents all the time. People could end up being able to spy on partners and former partners’ searches, interactions and plans for as long as they like, which is bad enough. Then there’s the added safety aspect of a controlling, unstable, rejected and angry person knowing exactly where their quarry is at all times.
The point of any tracking technology ought to be to help keep people safe, not place them in danger. The bottom line should be that the person with the phone is aware from the start that the tracking technology is on there. Otherwise, this isn’t just a breach of human rights, it’s a prime piece of stalker kit.
Could you trust someone who gives you an iPhone? Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/ AP