London-based firm mSpy makes apps that let parents spy on their children and bosses spy on their employees via their smartphones. Its newest offering, mCouple, gives users complete access to their significant others’ location, Facebook and text messages, photos, videos, Skype activity and even voice conversations.
While the mCouple app is being marketed as a tool for couples who want to “be closer than ever before” and its developers say mutual consent is a requirement for downloading the app onto another person’s phone, the app has resonated with people who are suspicious of their partners’ fidelity.
It may be tempting, but downloading the app without consent comes at a risk. Lawyers consider such activity covert spying and illegal. According to the app’s U.S. disclaimer:
You are advised that it is considered a violation of United States federal and/or state law in most instances to install surveillance software, such as the mSpy Software, onto a mobile phone or other device for which you do not have proper authorization, and in most cases you are required to notify users of the device that they are being monitored. Failure to do so is likely to result in violation of applicable law and may result in severe monetary and criminal penalties imposed on the violator. You should consult your own legal advisor with respect to legality of using the mSpy Software in your jurisdiction prior to downloading and using the mSpy Software.
Slater & Gordon privacy expert Jeremy Clarke-Williams told the MailOnline, “As a general rule, if spouses or partners or even bosses hand out mobiles with one of these apps installed, that would seem to be a clear invasion of privacy.”
Relationship experts have also warned against the use of the mCouple app in almost all circumstances. Speaking to The Telegraph, relationship coach and psychologist Susan Quilliam said that while she understands why couples would be interested in the app, particularly when one partner has cheated in the past, it’s the wrong approach and fails to address the underlying issues.
“It’s like taking a painkiller for a broken leg,” said Quilliam. “It will stop the pain for a while but it won’t save your leg.” She says talking your partner is still the best way to deal with suspicions of cheating. “If you feel you can’t do that because they might blow up in your face, then there’s more at play here than just the cheating.”
Many young couples today believe in sharing everything, including their social media passwords. But as Quilliam pointed out, a “certain degree of privacy is healthy even in the closest relationships.”