Posted on August 9, 2016 in Crime
Technology is advancing at a breakneck pace and rarely gives the law time to catch up. In today’s world, dating apps such as Tinder, social media apps such as Facebook and Snapchat, and communication apps such as Skype are widely used by people of all ages. However, there are also forms of legal spyware that allow individuals to track other peoples’ online activities. Because Tinder stalking cases and various other invasion of privacy issues have come about, these programs are raising some serious ethical and legal questions.
mSpy is one of the controversial legal forms of spyware. The app was created for a somewhat noble purpose. In an increasingly digital world, parents need a way to track their young children’s online activities. However, jealous partners and those with more nefarious intentions may also use the program to violate others’ privacy.
Monitoring programs such as mSpy allow users to tap into activities taking place on someone else’s device. In addition to Tinder, the app is available to track Snapchat, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, iPhones, SMS messages, and more. All someone needs to do is access the device and install the app to gain access to any number of personal activities.
Parents using the app to monitor a child is one thing. What happens, however, when a jealous ex-boyfriend or a stranger in a coffee shop “borrows” your phone and downloads the app? All of a sudden, information ranging from your exact GPS coordinates to who you are talking to on dating apps is available for the mSpy user to access. mSpy isn’t the only app offering this type of spyware.
Not all spyware apps require an in-person device installation to share information the device’s owner may want to keep private. Apps such as Swipebuster use Tinder’s public data to determine information such as if a person has a profile and if that profile is currently active. Reporters have shared stories of people using the app to catch cheating partners in the act. Like mSpy, FlexiSPY also requires installation on the device to share activities with an outside individual.
From a legal perspective, new apps are creating legal challenges every day. Clandestinely accessing someone’s device to install spyware is clearly a violation of privacy, but other matters aren’t so clear. For example, new cases may need to determine where to draw the line in terms of online privacy and spyware apps. Is it okay for a parent to spy on a child indefinitely? Is it okay for a spouse to secretly install spyware on a partner’s phone?
In addition to these third party apps, social media and dating apps themselves pose certain risks. In 2014, white hat hackers were able to coordinate the exact locations of Tinder users with a simple Tinder API query and a mathematical equation. Ultimately, any app that tracks, records, or uses your GPS location may have security vulnerabilities that could put users at risk. Media coverage has already reported on stalkers, robbers, and other criminal using the Pokémon Go app to lure unsuspecting victims. When app developers put user experience and new features above security, they’re putting hundreds (or thousands) of users at risk.
Technology is fun and engaging, but it can also pose a threat. Phoenix criminal lawyer Craig Orent knows that awareness and caution can go a long way in protecting you from an invasion of privacy and suggests some of the following tips for staying safe in the digital world: