Posted: Robert Siciliano | December 15, 2015

News

Should Stalking or Spying Apps Be Banned?

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The words "spying" and "stalking" have negative connotations, but there's a flipside to the coin: parents monitoring their kids' online activities and physical locations. And how about middle-aged adults keeping track of the whereabouts of their aged parents with dementia?

If you fear that apps for "spying" might get banned, here's bad news: U.S. Senator Al Franken is pushing for this.

However, Franken's proposed law will actually permit these constructive uses. His plan is to require companies to give permission to users before collecting location data or conducting any sharing of it. But suppose a real stalker poses as a concerned parent, how would the company know?

And when spying and stalking apps are used malevolently, should their makers bear responsibility? Is this like saying that the company that makes steak knives is responsible for the man who used one to stab his ex-friend?

However, maybe that all depends on whom the stalking and spying app company targets for customers. A now defunct maker of stalking apps targeted people who wanted to stalk their spouses, and its CEO was indicted last year and fined half a mil.

Another such maker, markets their product for good uses like keeping tabs on kids: a smarter move. Their site even calls their software "monitoring" rather than "stalking" or "spying."

With that all said, it's illegal to spy on someone with these apps without their permission. The line is very blurry, because it's not illegal for a manager at the workplace to follow a subordinate and watch his every move, including what he's doing on his computer during work hours.

Banning these kinds of apps will not go over well with the many parents who see them as a godsend for keeping a watchful eye on their kids, not to mention the many middle-agers who, without these apps, would fear that their elderly parents with dementia might wander off and get lost or in harm's way.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

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