On three occasions this week, I asked a FlexiSpy salesperson a simple question: If I wanted to, could I use their spyware to snoop on my wife's cellphone without her knowing? The answer each time was yes. When asked if it was legal, they responded with a canned disclaimer explaining it was necessary to get the permission of the target. But what if I didn't want my wife to know? They could help me anyway. If I wanted to break the law, I could use their $68-a-month app and they'd walk me through the 5-10 minute process of installing FlexiSpy on my wife's phone, hoovering up all her calls, WhatsApp and Facebook messages, and her location, whilst hiding the software so she'd never know.
That never happened. The enquiries were to find out how scrupulous FlexiSpy was and if it might be willing to help customers even if their actions were in breach of the U.S. Wiretap Act, which outlaws any surreptitious spying on another's communications without their permission. Procurement of another person to intercept comms is also deemed illegal under the statute. And outside of legal problems with spyware, there are clear moral issues: often such spyware is used in abusive relationships. In 2014, NPR surveyed 70 women's shelters; 85 per cent were working with victims who were tracked via GPS, or what's commonly called "spouseware."