Smartphone Snooping

Michael Kwan
Young man speaking on phone while driving

Do you want to keep a closer eye on that teenager of yours as she heads out on her first date ever? There are programs you can use to snoop on smartphones, but there are some questions you'll need to ask yourself before proceeding.

Legitimate Cell Phone Snooping Scenarios

By and large, cell phone snooping is illegal with the express consent of the person who is being watched. This has to do with the various cell phone privacy laws, which will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The exact laws that apply while snooping on phones in Sacramento may not the be same as the ones for snooping on phones in Seattle or Singapore.

In general, if a person does not know that active surveillance is being used on them, it is not legal to use software to "snoop" on them. This is the same reason why customer service lines usually have an automated message stating that your call will be recorded "for quality assurance purposes" before you are connected to a customer service representative. The fact that you choose to continue the call after hearing that message constitutes your consent to participate in a conversation that may be recorded.

Assuming that you have acquired the right permissions, there are some scenarios where snooping on a smartphone is perfectly legal and something that you may want to do. Some examples include the following:

  • Monitoring your children: When you provide your children with a smartphone, you can tell them that you are going to be using software to monitor their usage and track their location. If they do not agree to these terms, then you can tell them that they cannot have a cell phone. If your child gets a phone on his or her own, however, you may not have the right permissions to proceed.
  • Monitoring your employees: Just as there can be tracking or monitoring software installed on company-issued computers in the office, the same concept can apply to mobile computers too; that includes smartphones and other mobile devices. Again, the employer reserves this right, because the phone is supposed to be used for company purposes only.
  • Collaborating with your team: If you are working on a team project that may require surveillance of the other team members, they can all agree to have these kinds of apps and programs installed to facilitate the snooping with permission.

Apps for Tracking Family

While these apps may not allow you to intercept text messages or listen in on phone calls, they do give you the ability to use GPS technology to track the physical location of the cell phone that is running the application. Many of these apps are geared toward concerned parents.

  • Family Locator by Life360 gives you the ability to see the real-time location of your family using any Android phone or iPhone. It also allows you to send and receive safety check-ins, as well as see the sex offenders who live in the area.
  • GPS Tracking by Family Safety Production works in much the same way. It uses GPS to track the exact location of family members, relaying this information to your Android phone or iPhone. There are complete privacy controls too.
  • GPS Tracker by InstaMapper LLC is a free GPS tracking service that lets you track your phone online in real time. What's interesting is if the phone gets lost (or if the person with the phone decides to shut off the app), the app can be activated remotely with an SMS message. This lets you recover lost phones or track down loved ones who may not necessarily want to be tracked.

Anti-Snooping Smartphone Applications

Two other apps do something quite different.

  • iTrust for iPhone protects users from snooping friends and loved ones. When the physical phone is picked up by someone other than the owner, the iPhone displays a "fake" home screen. It then records everything that the person is trying to do with the phone.
  • Keep Your Hands Off My Phone by Wonderful Solution is a similar anti-snooping app, except it is for the Android platform. It puts your phone in Protected Mode, preventing would-be snoopers from reading text messages and perusing e-mails.

Flexispy Service Goes Much Further

When it comes to surveillance applications on smartphones, the snooping doesn't get much more robust and intense than with the Flexispy program. This works in tandem with an annual subscription service, ranging from $149 per year to $349 per year. You can use Flexispy to cloak communications, record spy calls to PC, remotely listen to actual phone calls, secretly read call logs, track locations on a map, and more.

Smartphone Snooping