A company behind the creation of software that can be used to monitor the activities and location of a cell phone user, dubbed as a stalkerware, was told by the Federal Trade Commission to stop with the surveillance application business.
For the first time, the FTC has directed a company to cease, which was applied to Support King LLC and its CEO, Scott Zuckerman. The company based in Puerto Rico markets SpyFone that gains access to someone’s phone without being detected.
In a statement posted on its website, the FTC said such surveillance products can pose real harm.
SpyFone was marketed by the company as a way to keep an eye on children and employees’ activities. The FTC said it has failed to stop domestic abusers and stalkers from using the app.
One’s online activity can be detected by the installer of the application, giving him or her access to text and video chats. It even allows the activation of the phone’s microphone to hear phone and video conversations through its premium version.
Apart from being tricky by not displaying the icon on the phone of the installer, the FTC also said that there were shortcomings in the developers’ side as they failed to shield the information harvested on victims. It noted that there had been around 2, 200 people whose information was compromised in a hacker’s access to the stalkware-maker’s server.
“Federal agencies have long been lax when it comes to allowing companies to peddle surveillance products with impunity,” said FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra.
The widespread abuse of stalkerware has long been a concern of online regulators led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, who lauded FTC for its action, AP News reported.
“Practically speaking, this is a bold move by the FTC but now they will have to follow through and enforce it,” cybersecurity director at EFF, Eva Galperin, said through email. “It might be the beginning of the end for stalkerware, but even if that is true, it’s a long process and there is a lot that can go wrong between now and then.”