Boyfriend Tracker, an app that encouraged jealous women to spy on their partners’ activities using the men’s own phones, has been pulled by Google following complaints about invasion of privacy and fears that some might use the technology to stalk or even extort their targets.
The brainchild of a Brazilian developer, Rastreador de Namorados (Portuguese for Boyfriend Tracker), was marketed as a “private detective in your partner’s pocket.” Users were encouraged to sneak off with their partners’ phones to manually install the app on the men’s devices, and then sit back to see what bubbled up.
“Functions include sending the person doing the tracking updates on their partner’s location and forwarding duplicates of text message traffic from the targeted phone. There is even a command that allows a user to force the target phone to silently call their own, like a pocket dial, so they can listen in on what the person is saying,” writes Jenny Barchfield at the Associated Press.
Tens of thousands of Brazilians reportedly downloaded the technology. “Brazilians are a jealous people, what can I say? Of course it’s going to be popular,” said one Rio woman who claimed to have suffered a philandering husband.
The best scenario in spying on a spouse using GPS-enabled tech that broadcasts private messages from his phone might be discovering how banal his days actually are, from grating work e-mails sent from the boss after hours to mindnumbing grocery lists, weekly slogs to the gym and that one thrilling, illicit trip to Home Depot. That’ll learn ya.
And although tech that allows insecure partners to peer in on each other feels markedly more unsettling than apps marketed for the “friendly surveillance” of family and friends, maybe it’s a slippery slope.
“Treating people you supposedly love like prisoners is a great way to drive them right out of your life,” Jezebel’s Lindy West writes about the dysfunctional nature of surveillance apps.
“Being let down by someone you trust is much less damaging than being so incapable of trust that you feel compelled to possess and control other human beings.”
Perhaps it’s best to voice concerns the old-fashioned way, face to face.