Do you trust your partner not to snoop around on your phone while you’re out of the room? It’s a lot more common than you think, but some people go far beyond the occasional message browse and use their partner’s own smartphones to spy on them 24/7.
I was invited to take part in a radio show this week where a woman named Claire gave a terrifying account of her ex-partner’s efforts to stalk her. After Claire left the relationship, she would still receive texts from her ex detailing her every move; ‘why were you at the doctor’s just now’ and the like.
Claire had no idea how her ex knew exactly what she was up to at all times. Things got so bad that he was breaking into her house when he knew she was elsewhere and leaving little objects on the dining room table, just so she knew that he’d been there.
Then one day, a friend suggested that the answer may lie in her smartphone. And sure enough, it transpired that Claire’s ex, who had set up her iPhone for her when they were still in a relationship, was using the ‘Find My iPhone’ feature to track her down.
Smartphones, the ultimate spy machine
It’s common for people to spy on their fellow humans using smartphones; just take a look at Twitter and Facebook, which are positively crammed full of embarrassing and weird photos. “Hey, look at this moron, he’s got cornflakes stuck in his beard, what a nob,” etc. But most of us wouldn’t imagine that our beloved mobile tech could actually be turned against us.
Almost every phone these days comes with some kind of tracking feature, which allows you to log into your personal account on a computer and locate your phone’s resting place on a map. Great news if you’ve lost the bugger down the sofa yet again, but it’s a feature that also allows anyone else with your login details to track your movements.
But that’s a mere hair on the scrotum of spying possibilities. If someone has direct access to your phone, they could install all manner of apps to keep tabs on you.
For instance, there are several anti-theft apps such as Lockwatch Find Stolen Phone and GotYa! which can be used to take photos of someone remotely, using the phone’s front-facing camera. They’re meant for the power of good, of course, but they’re all too easy to abuse – although that’s nowhere near as terrifying as what some apps are capable of.
Nowhere to run to…
Things start to get truly pant-soiling when you check out apps like Mobile Spy. The Mobile Spy website states that the app should only be used by concerned parents who want to make sure little Johnny or Tiffany isn’t up to no good, or employers who want to keep tabs on their underlings – and always with the express permission of the person whose phone the app is being installed on.
But of course, as with the phone tracking features, this is a tool that’s all too easy to abuse.
So, what does Mobile Spy do? Well, install it on someone’s mobile and you can monitor their messages, see their entire call history, check out their social networking activities, examine their web browsing history and even see what photos they’ve taken. So basically, you can monitor their entire life.
What can I do to make sure I’m not being spied on?
Samsung discovered in a recent survey that around four in ten adults have snooped on their partners, so if you’re worried about your other half taking a crafty look at your messages, it’s probably time to change the PIN. Or even better, get a phone with a fingerprint scanner, like the iPhone 6.
If someone else set up your phone for you and you think they might be spying on you, it’s best to completely reset the device and start again. You can do this in your phone’s settings menu – for instance, Android phones allow you to do a full factory reset from Backup & Reset.
And if you’re truly paranoid, it’s possible to send encrypted messages using apps such as TextSecure.
Don’t forget that if you use social networks, many of them will report your location when you post something. You can turn location services off in the settings, to keep this from happening.