Cell phone spyware

I have a divorced friend with a truly dangerous ex who spent their entire marriage spying on her however he could. I just read about these apparently legal services that allow you to install spyware on someone’s cell phone, so that you can read their texts, listen to their calls, track their whereabouts, etc. I search the message boards and found one brief thread about this sort of thing being possible, but it didn’t (that I noticed) mention the kinds of private companies I just read about–just debated how/why Big Brother would utilize such a service. It was also suggested, either in the SD thread or somewhere else (I’ve been looking all over the web) that one needed to PHYSICALLY access the cell phone in order to install the spyware.
So, does anyone know the veracity of these claims? Do you have to install the spyware physically? And are these companies 100% legal? They claim to be, but surely there is, at the very least, some legislation in the pipelines aimed at outlawing them?

This is potentially a highly complex legal issue that may depend on jurisdiction.

I believe that the general rule would be that installing monitoring software on someone’s phone without either their permission or a search warrant is illegal. Depending on applicable privacy laws, it may be the case in some jurisdictions that people by default are permitted to consent for their spouse, so for example it may be legal for a husband to consent to monitoring of the wife without consulting her. Consult a lawyer.

Don’t discount the carriers themselves, some of what you are describing is what they call parental control, mainly for tracking what the kids are doing with cellphones on the parental plan. Having that co-opted for a paranoid spouse is not out of the question.

On the subject of spyware, I would hazard a guess that you could do it over the air, without having to have physical access to the phone. Numerous companies that provide that sort of service, are more likely to be advertising it to the business community and has been co-opted.

The only thing that I can see making that ilegal is essentially a private market wire tapping operation, everything else seems to be inline with corparate IT policys regarding use of company equipment, even though it does not sound like the purpose of the wares was used as stated.


Well, that is just…disturbing. I can’t believe it isn’t illegal. I mean, I can’t just go randomly tapping my ex-husband’s land line. Anyway, thanks for the info/ideas.

If your friend is concerned that there’s spyware on her phone, can’t she just do a wipe and “restore factory settings” to get rid of it? It might be a little more complicated if it’s a smartphone, but I would think backing up music, apps and contacts would suffice to add them back after the factory reset. I guess the only problem would be if the spyware was piggybacked somehow onto an app, music, or contact information.

I’m not sure how the companies selling this stuff can claim it is legal. 18 USC 2511 states:

The exceptions made tend to be those for law enforcement intercepting communications, or where one of the parties has agreed to have the calls recorded.

It could be that the software itself isn’t prohibited by law, but it sure would seem that its use would be.

See, that’s kinda what I thought. But the shit’s all over the internet-there are ads for it at the end of this very thread. The impression I got was that the laws against unwarranted bugging were written before cellular use was widespread, and therefor specific to land-line telephones–but the section you quoted sounds all-inlcusive enough to me.

Is this the ad just to the left of the one about how to buy a house even if you have no income, and just below the ad about penis enlargement pills that really work? :wink:

The actual site usually includes language about how you have to have the person’s permission. Or, at least, that’s how I’ve seen similarly illegal things marketed, like pirated software. The ads will say its free, but the site will say something about it being backup copies or something.