A formerly London-based phone surveillance startup called mSpy is establishing a new base in New York City’s Financial District. The app runs in the background of phones and can record calls, texts, iMessages, Skype conversations, GPS locations, and data from WhatsApp and other messaging apps like Viber. You can even turn someone’s phone into a bugging device and pick up their IRL conversations. On Android, you can access Facebook messages too.

It’s been around since 2011, but this is the first time the mSpy team has expanded internationally, and it signals that the company is serious about convincing more Americans to take a poop on their loved ones’ privacy. 

Whoever installs mSpy can block apps from the spied-upon phone and view any photos or videos that have been save to the phone. In fact, everytime the phone takes media, it gets uploaded to an mSpy account so it can be viewed remotely immediately. And if whoever uses the phone does something the mSpy client doesn’t like, they can lock the phone and erase the data. It’s comprehensively creepy and foreboding, like the Crispin Glover of software.

So… how is this legal? Well, it’s only legal if the person being tracked agrees to using this software. Otherwise, people getting tracked by mSpy can take legal action against the person doing the tracking. This means it’s good for parents who want to give their children a really solid reason to rebel, but it’s not so good for romantic partners trying to snoop on their significant other. Also, Snapchat can’t be monitored, so parents who install this are basically begging their kids to offload their communication habits onto apps that mSpy can’t keep track off. Only Evan Spiegel and whoever eventually hacks Snapchat’s crappy security and releases all of our crotch pictures into the wild will be able to monitor everyone’s favorite sexting app.

But what this means is that the onus is on users: If someone uses mSpy illegally, i.e. for you know, spying, without the approval of the person being mSpied on, mSpy doesn't get in trouble. The person who has been using it to monitor someone does. 

Now, mSpy’s comprehensive creepiness could come in handy. A person could choose to mSpy themselves as a way to back up their media data and safeguard their phone in case it is stolen. They might also mSpy themselves if they’ve watched too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU and believe that their real-time GPS coordinates could one day prevent a heinous sex crime from befalling them. Also, this is a fantastic way to spy on your children, although as I said before, it may compel them to use newfangled apps the olds don’t know about.

An mSpy spokesperson told Betabeat that only 4 percent of users are parents, which means the other 60 percent are either very paranoid or are illegally creeping on their lovers. 74 percent of mSpy’s user base is male because of course it is.

H/T Betabeat | Photo via Flickr/Tony Fischer (CC BY 2.0)