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October 2, 2014

Smart Phone Spying and Tracking

Blaine R. Young

I read something in The Washington Post this week that actually shook me up a little and made me wonder where we are headed as a society. This story really bothered me.


It appears that the latest smart phone app is not the typical music, entertainment, news or sports application. Instead, this one has been nicknamed the “Stalker App.”


I applaud the federal government for taking a stand. They arrested the purveyor of this insidious device for violation of federal laws that are designed to protect personal privacy. Good for them.


What makes this particular invention so objectionable is the fact that it is designed to be installed into someone’s phone presumably without their knowledge. So, if you have one of these applications on your phone and you can get your hands on someone else’s phone for just a few minutes, you can install spyware into the phone that will allow you to track that phone at all times and know exactly where that person is. And even more disturbing, it will allow you to listen in on your target’s phone conversations and view his or her text messages and emails.


What could be more invasive of personal privacy than this? It really disturbs me to see people coming to this company’s defense for their distribution of this product.


There are some potential uses of the product which may indeed be legal. Parents could install it on phones carried by their children. But would you do that without telling them? Even a child has some sort of interest in maintaining a bit of personal privacy.


It is also stated that under certain circumstances an employer could install it on a phone of “suspicious employees.” All I know for sure is that I would not want to work for that employer.


The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution has for a long time protected us against illegal intrusions, such as warrantless wiretapping and surveillance of our private communications. However, that generally protects us only against government action. It seems we may need stronger laws to protect us against private spying by use of invisible eavesdropping and tracking devices such as the one which made news this week.


I am usually the last person to say we need the government to pass more laws. But this time, we may need something more.


Finally, I learned one thing if nothing else from this story. Keep an eye on your phone at all times.


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