What it's like to be spied on by Android stalkerware marketed to suspicious spouses

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/02/22/misogyny-with-a-business-model.html

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So… what’s it like?


Isn’t stuff like this … I dunno … illegal?

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Sure would be nice to have a list of these apks or program info to look for to help make sure my phone is secure.


This is so weird to me… They are actually marketing products directly to abusive men? Like just straight up at them, because they know thats who wants their product so why be sly about, market directly at them.

Amazing. Also terrifying.

I also enjoy how the image is used to portray the women as the cheaters, thus therefore deserving of the beatings they have received.


We live in a world where you can buy an “Ex Girlfriend” target dummy that bleeds. Amazon stopped selling it a while ago, but it’s freely available elsewhere.

It’s not just a demographic, but a demographic that loves spending their money on petty revenge and power plays.


I know someone who was a victim of this sort of spyware on her computer several years ago. Her abusive, controlling husband installed it, and it was just as terrifying and invasive as you’d imagine. (She is no longer married to him.) If there is a hell, I hope there’s a special level there just for people who do things like this.



I wonder if the models in the photo know that their images are used to promote something so disgusting. Who even makes stock photos like that? My only guess is that it’s been co-opted from some psych experiment or similar endeavor.


It might be, depending on wiretapping and hacking laws in whatever state one happens to be in. But the software makers for these kinds of products often also have versions for law enforcement so some of them get a pass.

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I’m a trifle surprised that they are being so bold in their marketing, rather than just letting the customer base figure it out for themselves; but regulation of alarmingly useful surveillance software is complicated by the fact that (architecturally) it shares a lot of DNA with remote management and anti-theft features(and ‘child safety’ of course).

There is, obviously, no ethical similarity between these use cases; but even if you can stamp out black-market channels, these capabilities are available over the counter, under more respectable branding, for use on devices you have legitimate access to.

If law enforcement actually took an interest(and the phone you tapped wasn’t actually owned by you, which could be a sticking point in a lot of ugly partner violence situations), installing spyware and wiretapping, likely with an interestate nexus, is very, very, illegal; but trafficking in the tools needed to do it isn’t,


The marketing materials for Spyphone and its competitors often use imagery of angry men beating up or abusing their (presumably) cheating female partners, and slightly modified versions of these apps are also marketed to governments and police forces.

The marketing materials for the latter group must be pretty easy to modify for the government and police markets: swap out “authorities” for “husband”, “citizens” for “wife”, “treason” for “cheating”, and then switch out the stock photographs of men abusing women for this Orwell classic:


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There’s some major irony in the FBI complaining about this.

“NO, only we are allowed to put malware on people’s phones and spy on them! If everyone did it we’d have chaos!”


The FBI doesn’t use malware; they use ‘network investigative techniques’. Totally different.


I realize you’re just being a disgusting troll, but here is a current screenshot of the site. It’s quite real.


Sounds very familiar…

You think they don’t use any and all means? Legal or illegal?

If you think the TLAs don’t use malware I have a bridge across the Euphrates to sell you.

“I think you’re lying but I can’t be bothered to verify so I’ll complain about it” is not a great strategy for a winning argument.


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Click on the link to go to the main page, which reproduces that image. Or just click on “show full post.” We’re not making this up.