The spy in your pocket
Smartphone users have been understandably unnerved in recent weeks by revelations that their data is easily mined by manufacturers and the apps they install.
The capability your phone has to snoop out your comings and goings really shouldn't have come as a surprise. As long as there have been smartphones, there have been those who found ways to turn them into handheld spy tools.
SpyBubble's $49 software for Android, Blackberry and iOS phones offers the ability to secretly view call logs; read any text message sent or received by the target phone (even if those messages have been erased); record and upload GPS locations; track browsing, email and contact lists; and sneak to you any photos taken by the target phone.
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After installing it on any phone given to a family member or employee, you can monitor what it is done with it remotely, via Web site.
"Find out if your partner is cheating on you! Make sure your child is where they say they are. See exactly what your employee Is really doing when they call in 'sick.' See if your friend is lying to you," its online marketing boasts. The company says the program runs undetected and is "completely legal as long as you own the phone or have authorization to install SpyBubble on it."
FlexiSPY is another remote-monitoring tool aimed at folks who want to keep tabs on their kids or a spouse. A pro version retails for $349 a year by the FlexiSPY company, which claims to have "invented the commercial spy phone in 2004" and offers "professional-grade spy phone software that secretly captures all cellphone communications and lets you view or listen to all of this from anywhere in the world."
"In other words, it lets you become a fly on the wall knowing their every move," it adds. ""Are you serious about uncovering your cheating partner? The only way to be sure is to spy on their cellphone."
Once captured, the communication data is sent to your private Web account and GPS locations are displayed on a map tracking location and movements. FlexiSPY also boasts of being able to "intercept actual phone calls, so you can listen in on a live conversation, and remotely activate the target cellphone's microphone so you can listen to the phone's environment -- just like a bugging device."
Contact Spy, an iPhone app, lets you seek out online mentions and photos of anyone on your contact list.
Take a quick look around your room or office. Odds are that there is a great spot for a hidden camera, and another 99-cent app, Security Cam, lets you use your iPhone's built-in camera as a sound-triggered monitoring device.
Use the "Find My Phone" feature and you can even use a hidden iPhone to track someone's whereabouts.
Apps such as Spy Tools and Spy Photo let you take smartphone pictures discreetly, masking the fact you are doing so with dummy screens designed to throw off shoulder surfers.
Alas, for many of these uses, one could easily replace the work "spy" with "pervert."