Comparitech commissioned a survey of 2,000 people in the US and UK to ask whether they thought "it is legal to install a program on a partner's phone to snoop on their activity?" and whether they would "ever consider adding a program to your child's phone that allows you to listen to their conversations and spy on their messages?"
The survey was prompted by Joseph Cox's excellent reporting on Flexispy, a company that markets illegal spyware to jealous spouses and helicopter parents through a network of shadowy, Ponzi-like "affiliates" around the world, and by the finding that survivors of domestic abuse report that their abusers frequently use tools like Flexispy to track them.
For the first question ("Do you think it is legal to install a program on a partner's phone to snoop on their activity?") 53% said no, 18.8% said yes, and 28.72% were uncertain. For the second question ("Would you ever consider adding a program to your child's phone that allows you to listen to their conversations and spy on their messages?") 42.82% said no, 31.24% said "Only if I was worried about their behavior," 9% said "Only if was worried they were being bullied" and 17% said yes.
It is generally illegal to install spyware on someone's device without permission. Moreover, spyware vendors, operating illegally through offshore havens, are not regulated and are opaque about their own practices; many of these companies have been repeatedly hacked and had their data dumped -- the sensitive personal data you siphon out of your loved ones' phones might end up floating around on the internet forever.
The survey's sample size is good, but the methodology is not available anywhere I could find it, so it's hard to know how far to trust its conclusions.
American women were most likely to have viewed their partner’s internet history and look at their phones without their knowledge. British men were the least likely, while the proportion of British women and American men who admitted to snooping were about the same.
Likewise, American women were also the most likely to install an app on their partners’ phones to spy on phone calls and messages, although those who gave an affirmative answer usually said they would only do so if they though their partner was being unfaithful. Again, British men were the most trusting, while American men and British women hovered around the middle.
On the other side of the coin, British men were most likely to confront their partner if they found such an app on their phone, although the vast majority of respondents from all groups said they would react in the same manner. Americans were slightly more likely to ask for a divorce than Brits.
American women, particularly those in the 18-24 age group, were most likely to sneak a peak at the other person’s phone on a date, although the overwhelming majority across all demographics said they wouldn’t do this.
Almost half of people don’t know it’s illegal to install a spy app on their partner’s phone [Paul Bischoff/Comparitech]