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Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Putting spyware on your spouse’s mobile

There was a strange article in the Sunday Star Times over the weekend that seems to have passed without comment. The article, which is clearly based on a press release by a private investigator, describes loading spyware onto your partner’s cell phone as a way of finding out if they are being unfaithful.

This is highly likely to be illegal, both on telecommunications intercept grounds, and on the “anti-hacking” parts of the Crimes Act. The article doesn’t mention that, or any downside at all.

I’m amazed that anyone would think this is a reasonable thing to do. If you are reduced to spying on someone, why are you in a relationship with them? And, if someone spied on you like that, would you want anything more to do with them?

Update: Apparently the person concerned isn’t even a proper private investigator – check the second comment below. Looks like the Sunday Star Times was more than a little credulous.

posted by colin at 4:20 pm  

4 Comments

  1. I saw that article and thought it absolutely outrageous. No balance with any considerstion of privacy or ethical issues. I think you’re right though: lifted straight out if a press release. Horrible.

    Comment by sarb — 24 September 2008 @ 11:57 pm

  2. I write as the President of the NZ Institute of Professional Investigators, Inc. (NZIPI.) The man quoted in the article – one Warren OLSON – is described as a “private investigator.” Not according to the Ministry of Justice website which lists all individuals and/or companies which hold Private Investigator Licences and/or Private Investigator Employee Certificates. Neither OLSON’s name, nor that of his company appear in either list. On the face of it then he is in breach of the Private Investigators & Security Guards Act 1974 for carrying on the business of a private investigator without a licence.
    Further, the advice OLSON gives, and the software and procedures he recommends, would definitely appear to in breach of both the Crimes Act 1961 (relating to the unlawful interception of private communications) as well as various Privacy Principles of the Privacy Act 1993.
    The NZIPI does NOT endorse nor recommend in any way any of the comments or recommendations made by OLSON, and suggests that any member of the public intent on following OLSON’s advice to seek independent legal advice in the first instance.
    Trevor W.A. Morley.
    President,
    NZIPI.
    Wellington, 25th September 2008.

    Comment by Trevor W.A. Morley — 25 September 2008 @ 3:52 pm

  3. Trevor

    Thanks for that. I hope you are writing to the Sunday Star Times as well.

    I commented on this matter further on my radio programme today.

    Colin

    Comment by colin — 25 September 2008 @ 5:39 pm

  4. Rather touchy gentleman .. as investigators I would have thought you would at least get your facts correct. I stated clearly [ when asked by media sources to comment on the police use of a tracking device on a vehicle/resulting in an officer being killed] – that we used GPS devices overseas, but that it took a few hours to install them covertly into a car panel. The slap & strap stick type apparatus I gather NZ police were using, are not very reliable. Asked about other devices, I mentioned flexispy. Again, stating this was used by me/my former company, Overseas ! As to its use, I can give instances of it saving teenagers from serious trouble, when parents were able to get them out of, for example, dangerous drug involvement situations.
    If inadvertantly I have publicised a discreet method that local investigators may occasionally use, – and NZ does seem to have a fair amount of ‘leaked’ information from government circles, then my apologies.
    For your information I can add,I have recently lectured nationwide to amongst others, DIA Investigators, who by the way, are not required to be registerd. I was also awarded the 2007 Laurie Cameron scholarship by the Rt. Hon Helen Clark, for my research paper into ‘The Investigative Interviewing of Asians by NZ Govt. Agencies’ – so I do have some experience, apart from running an International Investigation company for over a decade.

    Warren Olson. m.s.s

    Comment by Warren Olson — 29 October 2008 @ 11:21 pm

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