Israel and the Muslim World: New Uses of Spy Phone Apps
The boom about Israel’s program for Android apps spying on the citizens’ mobile activity gas just started to settle, but the news is disenchanting – it is not a single, unique case of the governments’ appropriation of the spy phone app technology. The recent announcement from the Muslim-majority China’s areas about the introduction of mandatory spying software for citizens’ smartphones is another call for considering the future not as cloudless as it used to be depicted by the proponents of technological progress. Those who imagined finding themselves in a world of super-comfortable gadgets simplifying every activity in their lives, and looked forward to the introduction of new digital technologies as a solution for every trouble – beware! Some observations of the previous couple of months suggest that technological advancements made for people’s comfort and convenience are now increasingly used by the governments for their selfish purposes of public control.
Spy Phone Apps: the Israel Case
In April 2017, Google uncovered some unprecedented revelations of its analysts – the Google authorities revealed an Israeli app tracking people’s calls, messages, and online activities via a smartphone. The program was so advanced that it also enabled its owners to conduct illicit spying on the users via their smartphones’ cameras and microphones. Such a broad and enhanced set of spyware functions raised sincere concerns among the users and authorities responsible for Internet security and privacy, since its potential of eliciting private information was truly impressive.
Such a functional made Chrysaor (the name of the program) made it the most hazardous program threatening personal and financial data of users to a large degree; presumably, it was manufactured by the NSO Group technologies – the company recently accused of producing the Pegasus spyware product that targeted iPhones in 2016. Though one can hardly find the app in open sale, its presence has already been detected on dozens of devices in different countries, so larger-scale infection with the spyware is a serious threat of 2017. Now, the focus of Chrysaor is Android; hence, users of no smartphones may feel secure about their data once these apps get to the black market and are increasingly used by a number of secret agencies for their tracking and monitoring purposes.
Spying on Citizens in the Muslim-majority China
Though the scandal surrounding Chrysaor is not as burning now as it was in April, the new discovery of Internet security watchdogs has spurred an even greater debate over the limit of person’s right to privacy and confidentiality. Now China is in the spotlight: as it has recently been announced, Chinese authorities have issued an order urging the residents of Xinjiang province to install a government-owned spyware program on their phones. This measure was announced for the sake of enabling the government to undertake official monitoring of the population’s content and activities on private devices.
The initiative was explained by the need to control and curb the dissemination of terrorist video and content in the region, which is known for having a high proportion of Muslims. The innovation touches upon Android users thus far, but once it proves effective, one may expect the expansion of its outreach to other operating systems and other types of gadgets. After scanning the QR code for downloading the app, the online instructor provides all guidance on the app’s use to the device owner and once any incoming content is deemed hazardous or terrorism-associated, the app instructs the user to delete that content. In addition to such content filtration possibilities, the app is equipped with functions of Weibo (Facebook’s Chinese analogue) and WeChat (a popular Chinese messenger) information storage, thus spying on social communication of the residents as well.
Overall, the focus of Chinese government on censorship of consumed content is notorious and world-known; however, this is definitely a new step further in the effort to control citizens’ Internet use at the individual level. Now the Chinese authorities overseeing the implementation of this new policy have the right to delete all content they find ambiguous or undesirable via remote access to Chinese citizens’ phones. Hence, it is notable that though the technology is truly impressive as a technological innovation of the 21st century, it is truly bone-chilling to imagine some outsider sitting in a governmental cabinet looking through your personal content on the phone and sorting out what he or she considers proper.
So Is Spying Illegal?
Thus, your innocent effort to control children’s activities or keep track of your employees’ phone use in the workplace with the help of a handy product of mSpy might have caused some objections or ethical concerns before. Right now, given the scale of abuse among the governments in spy apps’ use, your concern about the health and safety of your dears and nears may seem absolutely normal, and the installation of such apps may become much more of an ordinary routine rather than a serious ethical issue.