Acting on a plea regarding the invasion of privacy of mobile phone users by spyware tools that monitor and record information, the Delhi High Court has sought the central government’s stand over the issue. Justice V Kameswar Rao issued notice on the petition by Dimple Vivek, a lawyer, who argued that mobile spyware or malware was a serious threat to mobile phone users who are placed under “total surveillance”.
The Court has also sought response from tech major Google and certain spyware sellers on the petition which seeks a direction to the Centre to stop the sale, operation and advertisement of such spyware. The petitioner has also sought directions to the Centre to regulate such spyware.
As per the petition, women were the primary victims of illegal spyware which is “capable of capturing significant amount of highly personal information” such as location tracking, monitoring text messages, calls, photos and camera. “Spyware or stalkerware refers to tools – apps, software programs, and devices – that let another person (such as an abuser/Spy/stalker etc) secretly monitor and record information about phone activity. The term ‘stalkerware’ is a more recent term that draws attention to the invasive, intrusive, and dangerous misuse of these tools,” it said.
The plea further claimed that certain spyware, which run on stealth mode and are difficult to detect or remove, are being sold/licensed to the public at large without any restriction or control and there is thus a potential of being misused. “This goes without saying that the very existence and use of the software/app is not only dangerous but is threatening to every individual including threat to the nation, as has enormous capacity of being misused grossly, including by terrorists, extremists etc… That unauthorized surveillance/accessing of stored data from the phones and other devices of citizens for reasons other than nation’s security would be illegal, objectionable and a matter of concern,” it said.