The Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability has been tracking recent revelations about two CIA programs that appear to involve bulk surveillance of Americans’ private information. With so much surveillance abuse coming from our own government and repressive regimes like Russia and China, it is all too easy to forget that we can also become the targets of surveillance from private companies and personal stalkers.
TechCrunch has released the results of a month’s long investigation into a mysterious entity based in Vietnam that provides a “collection of white-label Android spyware apps that continuously collect the contents of a person’s phone, each with custom branding, and fronted by identical websites with U.S. corporate personas that offer cover by obfuscating links to its true operator.”
TechCrunch was able to determine that at least 400,000 people around the world, many in the United States, are victims of this network’s spyware apps. Anyone who obtains physical access to a person’s phone can install this spyware – also called “stalkerware” for its ability to track abused spouses – “to silently and continually upload call records, text messages, photos, browsing history, precise location data and call recordings without the owner’s knowledge.”
Android systems are more vulnerable to these exploits than Apple. The latter has tighter restrictions on what kind of apps can be installed and what data can be accessed.
What if you suspect you might be a victim? TechCrunch helpfully offers a tutorial to detect spyware on your Android phone and how to remove it.