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Is Your Smartphone Spying On You?

As Paula cleared out her desk after being fired, she couldn't help but wonder how she was busted. Her boss, Larry, seemed to know every detail of her transgression. She was supposed to attend a number of seminars at a conference in Las Vegas that the company paid for, but she gave in to a friend's cajoling to play golf and go sight-seeing instead. Larry knew where she had lunch, what her friend was wearing on the links, even Paula's golf score. As Paula turned in the company iPhone, she had no idea that the device had betrayed her and led to her termination. Yeah, there's an app for that.

OK, so Paula and Larry are only cast members in my imagination, but the scenario could certainly be real. I recently got an ad via email for a product called Mobile Spy, and something made me open it rather than tossing it in the delete file as I typically would with this sort of thing.

Being a parent, employee, spouse and occasional supervisor, I'm likely as curious as anyone about the topic of invading privacy, or having my own invaded. As I dug into what Mobile Spy (and other similar applications) promise to deliver, I found myself getting a bit creeped out.

I have written a fair amount of policy in my day, and I like to think that those whom my rules are intended to steer will willingly heed them. I've also got three teenagers. And I've had my share of assigning tasks that seemed to take way too long to complete, leaving me with the feeling that perhaps detours were taken along the way by those tasked, or that perhaps personal business done on company assets might have been getting in the way of professional responsibilities. But despite all of these circumstances, my skin crawls a bit at the thought of leveraging the promised capabilities of tools like Mobile Spy.

Perhaps if the words "spy" and "stealth" weren't emphasized so much, I wouldn't be quite as put off. Semantics count--I would personally take much better to being told that my activities were being "monitored" or "logged" under the right circumstances than I would to being "spied on." Spying on someone is sneaky, underhanded and should be reserved for your nemesis, whether it be in international intelligence gathering or business relations.

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