The greatest coup in the history of spying came around 2009 when the entire Western world decided that it was necessary to walk around with a device containing a camera, microphone and GPS locator on us at all times. Of course, entities like the NSA and CIA exploit this societal vulnerability, but a huge news story that came out over the weekend demonstrates how everyday creeps can take advantage of this weakness too. Per Jennifer Valentino-DeVries in the New York Times:
KidGuard is a phone app that markets itself as a tool for keeping tabs on children. But it has also promoted its surveillance for other purposes and run blog posts with headlines like “How to Read Deleted Texts on Your Lover’s Phone.”
A similar app, mSpy, offered advice to a woman on secretly monitoring her husband. Still another, Spyzie, ran ads on Google alongside results for search terms like “catch cheating girlfriend iPhone.”
Valentino-DeVries’ reporting emerged along with a new academic study titled, The Spyware Used in Intimate Partner Violence. She elaborated why this is such a big deal after posting her story to Twitter.
If this country is to fully reckon with this #MeToo moment, how we view domestic violence must radically change. The Honeymooners is still widely regarded as a TV classic, despite domestic violence being the punchline of its signature joke.
This stuff is imprinted in our identity. Our fealty to capitalism, combined with our digital age has resulted in spying companies simply tweaking their product to meet existing demand, and it puts lives at risk. The CDC published data last year showing that “27 percent of women and 11 percent of men in the United States at some point endure stalking or sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner that has significant effects.” This should only continue to rise as more people get more comfortable with technology.
Digital stalking is a bigger danger to women than men, mainly because the general principle of life on this planet is it’s a bigger danger to be a woman than a man (because men), but this is an issue that everyone should be able to relate to. Privacy from the market and the government is virtually a myth in this era, but if our significant other’s are easily able to maintain an NSA-like vice grip on our lives thanks to the excesses of late-stage capitalism, then this really is the hellish dystopia that we all nervously joke about online all day.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.