This week, as I was scrolling through Instagram Reels, I saw (among aloe vera packaging machines and other bullshit) an ad for a so-called "safety" app. This app claims that with just your target's phone number, you can track their location in real time.
Are you serious? Who told you that this is okay? It is absolutely ethically wrong to track your children, friends, partners or whatever. This misuse of digital devices to track a victim is never okay.
I don't think that's going to work. Because it's not that easy to track your location with just your phone number. Yes, your telecom provider can see where your phone is (and it's likely you're there, too). But a random person? That's complicated to impossible. But it is possible that once you provide someone's number, the app will send an SMS or something similar with a link to download the app. Maybe this app introduces itself as a "safety" app or tries to appear "trustworthy".
This type of app or software is so-called "stalkerware". This means that it is used to track others' location, read their messages, turn on the camera or microphone, etc. Stalkerware is used by partners (who obviously have a trust issue), parents, schools, and governments. In a century that is becoming more and more digital, where our phone knows everything about us and (almost) every aspect of our lives is connected to the Internet, it is absolutely crucial that our data is safe.
Your abusive partner can track your every move, all the WhatsApp messages you've sent, take a picture of you as soon as you hold the smartphone in your hands and even turn on the microphone at any time.
It's absolutely horrifying. And it's needless to talk about the disastrous consequences this can have on the victim's mental health. But a lot of people don't seem to get that (By the way: This app has more than 20,000 followers on Instagram).
Don't use any of these apps!
It's irrelevant for what purpose and who you are.
It's wrong. Always.
If you think your phone is infected with some kind of stalkerware (or other malware): please contact an expert. For example, contact a cybersecurity professional you trust or a victim protection organization (e.g. "Opferschutz Schweiz"). Also see: stopstalkerware.org