A stalkerware firm and its CEO have been banned from the surveillance industry by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Support King, the stalkerware firm more commonly known as SpyFone, and CEO Scott Zuckerman have been banned from industry "over allegations that the stalkerware app company secretly harvested and shared data on people's physical movements, phone use, and online activities through a hidden device hack," according to the FTC.
The ban is seen as a move by the FTC to crack down on the surveillance industry, specifically stalkerware firms.
Stalkerware Firm SpyFone and its CEO Banned by FTC
The stalkerware firm better known as SpyFone and its CEO have been banned from the surveillance industry by the FTC, per a press release published by the agency.
The ban is over allegations that SpyFone had a hidden device hack that harvested and shared people's data, including their online activities and phone use.
According to the FTC press release, the stalkerware firm has also been accused of selling real-time access that allows "stalkers and domestic abusers to stealthily track the potential targets of their violence."
"The stalkerware was hidden from device owners, but was fully exposed to hackers who exploited the company's slipshod security," according to Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Per the FTC press release, SpyFone required buyers who want to install its software to bypass phone restrictions and even instructed users on how to hide the app so that the owner of the device will remain unaware that the device is being monitored.
What the FTC Ban Entails
According to Gizmodo, the ban from the surveillance industry means that SpyFone and its CEO "will no longer be able to distribute marketing materials or make future sales."
The report also quotes FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, who said that the ban placed on SpyFone and CEO Scott Zuckerman does not preclude them from "facing 'potential criminal liability.'"
As part of the settlement, SpyFone will be forced to erase all illegally harvested data. The stalkerware firm will also be required to notify people that its apps have been surveilled.
Other Actions Taken Against Stalkerware Apps and Firms
In 2019, the FTC brought its first stalkerware case against a company called Retina X-Studios and its CEO, James N. Johns, Jr. According to a separate FTC press release, the agency "has barred the developers of three "stalking" apps from selling apps that monitor consumers' mobile devices unless they take certain steps to ensure the apps will only be used for legitimate purposes."
Last year, Google Play Store took steps to ban stalkerware apps from the platform, though it initially exempted "spouseware" apps and parental control apps. The company eventually clarified partner-tracking apps are not allowed on the Play Store, but the exemption on parental control apps remained.
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Written by Isabella James