Over the last few years, the mobile phone has become such an asset to us that it has almost become a part of who we are. We constantly have and hold them wherever we go; they have become a very important part of our lives; our virtual being is stored in a device the size of your hand (Majdalani, 2016). We depend on several apps daily to stay connected, to the outside world as well as family and friends, as they are the medium through which the conversation goes through. Although there are many affordances, there are dangers that exist, specifically spying and surveillance apps that inform on their users.
For instance, your ex-girlfriend can see every time you swipe right while using Tinder or maybe your former husband is secretly listening to and recording your late-night Skype sessions with your new boyfriend. For millions of people, it’s not hypothetical. Someone could be spying on every call, Facebook message, snapchat, text, sext, and you’d never know. I’m talking about advanced software for stalking known as “spyware”, that is readily available to any insecure spouse, obsessive boss, overbearing parent, or even a crazy stalker.
Spyware has been around for decades, but the current software is even more invasive than before. If someone is alone with a device for a few minutes, or if they have the iCloud credentials of their targets, they can upload sophisticated tracking software that will let them follow along with whatever’s happening on their target’s device (Knibbs, 2015). To keep viewing, they keep paying. These softwares allow for horrifying invasions of privacy from parents and, at the worst, violent stalking. They should be banned. They’re not.
A screenshot of the links that appeared in my search engine.
Legal disclaimers tucked into the small print on their websites warn using this spyware for “illegal purpose,” and thus serve as weak legal shields that could easily be breached, if only law enforcement took the time to prioritise shutting these stalking-aid manufacturers (Knibbs, 2015). These disclaimers clash with blatant advertising recommended on spying on romantic partners and children. mSpy insists that it’s made primarily for parents who want to monitor their children and employers who want to keep tabs on their employees.
This is a typical mSpy promotion on YouTube where they attempt of “legitimise” the surveillance of a child’s online presence. This attempt to manipulate parents into spying on their children is absolutely ludicrous, you might as well title the advert “How to Lose Your Child’s Trust 101.” What makes this video even more cringe worthy is the pathetic attempt to guilt parents into purchasing this software through the cliche slogan “Know. Prevent. Protect.” This article endeavours to justify this software, stating that “leaving your child unguarded can simply affect your inner peace” …yeaaahhh right.
Allowing parents to spy on their children without their knowledge seems to be the most viable legal use, since parents can give consent for their kids, which helps the spyware evade breaking wiretapping laws (Knibbs, 2015). It’s morally questionable, but unlikely that a parent sleuthing use case would end up in court. Spyware should be banned. People who use this illegally should be prosecuted and people who are selling these softwares with the knowledge that it is going to be abused should be banned from selling it.
Similarly to the dangers of spyware, data storage can be another danger in the mobile application industry. A recent case in the US regarding a $4 million law suit against We-Vibe sex toy manufacturer for storing intimate data such as pattern and intensity levels of vibrations, the device’s temperature, when it was used and for how long, and the email address of customers registered with the device’s app (Cormack, 2017). Spokesman for the We-Vibe, Denny Alexander said the information was stored to help “improve products and for diagnostic purposes”. After settling, We-Vibe agreed to delete all email addresses provided via registration, the time and date of use on any device, vibration intensity levels and patterns, device temperatures and battery life (Cormack, 2017).
Through analysing the mSpy and We-Vibe case studies, you can view how when designing an application you must be aware of data storage and user tracking violations. Specifically with my Digital Artefact, if I were to publicly launch my music app that I am creating, I would have to be conscience of the data I may possibly receive from users interactions with the app. After researching the dangers that do exist in the app designing industry, I have been able to use this information to design a ‘Disclaimer’ and ‘Terms and Conditions’ page to my app that specifically outlines data storage policies. This will be in presented in Week 8’s “Guide to App-iness” online tutorial.
To view my Digital Artefact’s progress, click here.
Majdalani E, 2016. July 25th. MobiApps Expert. ‘The Importance of Mobile Apps Today.’ Available here: http://www.mobiappsexperts.com/the-importance-of-mobile-apps-today/ [Accessed: 24/04/2017]
Knibbs K, 2015. January 15th. Gizmodo. ‘How The Hell Are These Popular Spying Apps Not Illegal.’ Available here: https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/01/how-the-hell-are-these-popular-spying-apps-not-illegal/ [Accessed: 24/04/2017]
Cormack L, 2017. March 15th. The Age: Business. ‘We-Vibe Sex Toy Manufacturer Settles US Class Action For Almost 4 Million.’ Available here: http://www.theage.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/wevibe-sex-toy-manufacturer-settles-us-class-action-for-almost-4-million-20170315-guye1y.html [Accessed: 24/04/2017]