200 Apps, Services Help Stalkers; Is It Legal?

Digital monitoring of a spouse or partner can constitute illegal stalking, wiretapping or hacking. Laws and law enforcement have struggled to keep up with technological changes, even though stalking is a top warning sign for attempted homicide in domestic violence cases.

KidGuard, a phone app that can help keep tabs on children, promotes its surveillance for other purposes, like “How to Read Deleted Texts on Your Lover’s Phone.” A similar app, mSpy, advised a woman on secretly monitoring her husband. Still another, Spyzie, ran Google ads alongside results for search terms like “catch cheating girlfriend iPhone.” As such digital tools have multiplied, so have the options for people who abuse the technology to track others without consent, the New York Times reports. More than 200 apps and services offer would-be stalkers a variety of capabilities, from basic location tracking to harvesting texts and even secretly recording video. More than two dozen services were promoted as surveillance tools for spying on romantic partners. Most spying services required access to victims’ phones or knowledge of their passwords — both common in domestic relationships.

Digital monitoring of a spouse or partner can constitute illegal stalking, wiretapping or hacking. Laws and law enforcement have struggled to keep up with technological changes, even though stalking is a top warning sign for attempted homicide in domestic violence cases. “We misunderstand and minimize this abuse,” said Erica Olsen of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “People think that if there’s not an immediate physical proximity to the victim, there might not be as much danger.” Data on electronic stalking are scarce, but data breaches at two surveillance companies last year revealed accounts of more than 100,000 users. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 27 percent of U.S. and 11 percent of men at some point endure stalking or sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner with significant effects. Many law enforcement agencies don’t have the computer skills to help survivors, or don’t devote forensic resources to domestic abuse and stalking cases.

from https://thecrimereport.org