The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has banned the distribution of the SpyFone monitoring app. In addition, the CEO Scott Zuckerman was banned from working in the surveillance industry. With the Android app, which should not be confused with the legal provider SpyPhone, you could read out the contents of a cell phone, record chats or display the location of the smartphone in real time.
Unlike SpyPhone, which is still marketed by another company, the makers of SpyFone did not point out that such surveillance is illegal if the people concerned are not informed about it. Instead, the operators gave tips on how to hide the app from the user.
Zuckerman and his team now have to inform people spied on with SpyFone and delete their stored data. They were like from that Communication from the FTC emerges, also hardly secured. SpyFone even transmitted the password for the app to the company’s customers in plain text. In 2018, a stranger had access to the unencrypted data of 2,200 people, including photos and text messages.
The company behind SpyFone is called Support King LLC and is registered in Puerto Rico. The Caribbean archipelago is on the outskirts of the United States and is therefore subject to US law. According to the Decision of the FTC, which is to be interpreted as a court judgment, the company must inform on its website about the requirements of the FTC. In addition, bugged devices must display clear indications of the monitoring activities – so Support King will have to operate its infrastructure for a while in order to accomplish this.
It is already the second case in which the authority has stopped the business operations of such a surveillance company. In 2019, the FTC shut down the RetinaX company. In its communication, the authority also points out that the action was not only necessary because of the generally illegal spying. The FTC describes the app as “stalkerware” and sees the risk that such apps promote stalking and domestic violence.
As a rule, such apps are not sold through the Apple and Google stores, but on the providers’ websites. The buyers then have to carry out the installation themselves on the smartphones of their target persons, depending on the scope of functions, root rights are required for this. The manufacturers of the espionage tools give very specific instructions for this. They are also available to detect and ward off such sniffing programs.