Next time you download a mobile app, be warned: it could wreck your marriage or even help burglars rob your home, as one episode in New York City can reveal.
A man found out his wife was two-timing him after turning on his new iPhone 4S and his 'Find My Friends' app pinpointed her exact location she never told her husband.
Whether this 'spying via app' story is a hoax or not, it raises the question of anyone can engage in 'smartphone espionage.'
“The story raises big privacy issues: people either forget their apps turned on, or they are just careless about using them: you might have just broken up and it’ll be easy for your ex to start stalking you,” Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at the London-based security company Sophos, told Metro.
“It is perfectly legal to install these apps if the owner of the mobile has agreed to be tracked down. Yet, chances are that a third party like a jealous partner can do it for you,” Cluley added.
With GPS-based people-finding apps, it’s not only your heart that may suffer from over-sharing of personal data: it may be your wallet, too.
A website named 'Pleaserobme.com' launched last year sets out to address the risks of over-sharing, after a rise in burglars using social media to targets homes.
As Barry Borsboom, co-creator of the website puts it, “people started checking-in on social media wherever they were, and it was all public for everyone to see. So we just put messages into another context: if you are somewhere, it also means you are not at home.”
So… next time your social frenzy will make you install mobile apps tracking your movements down while you mosey through town, well, think about it twice. It may be used against you.
Leon Hart, private detective working for UK-based InTime Investigations Agency, spoke to Metro on the subject.
Do you actually use social media or mobile apps to track down unfaithful bedmates?
We do use LinkedIn, Facebook or Google Latitude to track down people. Those are the places that we normally search. On top of it, we also use app like FourSquare. However, since you can’t install it remotely, you need to get hold of the phone and install it without the permission of the person first.
So I guess a jealous husband could help you out with that…
Of course: the man can open the door for us while the wife is taking the shower, while she’s asleep or she’s taking children at school. It just takes 10 minutes for us to download the app and have complete GPS surveillance on that person.
Isn’t it illegal?
As for matrimonial issues in Britain, it would depend on the solicitor or on the judge. Lots of them would rule in favor of the cheated, especially when there are children involved. In these cases, this information shall be used.
Any other special trick from your bag?
We tend not to use apps available on the market, but we rely on our apps we developed along with other detective agencies. When we install them, they are practically invisible to the phone owner. The problem with iPhone is that it has to be jail-broken to install the software, and once people update their iPhones via official system update, those apps get swiped away and we have to install them again.
You can't hide: These apps find you and tell the world:
- FourSquare – One of the most famous social, mobile, geolocation services, it lets you virtually "check in" to different locations, find out where your friends are and receive ads about what may interest you nearby. Available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Palm, and Nokia Ovi phones.
- Find My Friends – Available only for Apple’s iOS 5 running on the brand new iPhone 4S, this free gizmo tracks down where people are at a given time through reading out a text location, and by plotting buddies on a map.
- Google Latitude – The Android answer to ‘Find My Friends’ allows to show your location and that of your friends, as well as other suggested friends you may want to share with, all in real time. There's a button to check in – but you may as well hid your location from the world - and it's deeply integrated into Google Maps.
- Facebook Places – Recently kicked-off by Mr. Zuckenberg’s company, it allows your friends know where you are simply by tapping the ‘Places’ button on your Facebook mobile app. It doesn't rely on a GPS device to find your location, so you can check-in from a laptop or an iPod. Just setting the privacy options right can turn it off.
- Gowalla – Launched in 2009, it is not only another location-based social network services, but it works also as a social guide to the most loved places and cities, allowing users to share and discover photos, experiences and recommendations on the go.