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Google Bans Texting Spy App, Web Gets Excited

Google made a controversial decision to ban Secret SMS Replicator, an Android app that automatically forwards text messages to another phone, from the market. They weighed two evils to see which was lighter than the other, facilitating spying versus being in the spirit of openness in terms of not censoring such things, and their scale came up with the same reading most reasonable people would see. No?

Arguably the thing wasn’t malware intrinsically, it worked as advertised, and you can only install it on a phone to which you have physical access, theoretically either your phone or someone who trusts you with their phone. That said, the first purpose of this thing that comes to anyone’s mind, mine at least, when reading even just its title is you borrow someone else’s phone for a moment and installing it, setting it to forward texts back to you secretly.

Perhaps other than for keeping disturbingly close tabs on your kids, it’s harder to attempt to articulate a convincingly legitimate use for this than it would be for bittorrent but the chief executive of DLP Mobile, the creator, tried anyway: “This app is certainly controversial, but can be helpful to people in relationships where this type of monitoring can be useful. The app is unique because there is no visible icon or shortcut to access it, so once it’s installed, it will continue to monitor without revealing itself.”

Before Google pulled it, he told the Times, “We can’t build it for the iPhone because it wouldn’t make it past the App Store approval process.” And as for those of you who don’t want to fall prey to espionage he advised “keeping your phone close by, or make sure people trust you.”

If you ask me, the purpose of this software was to troll the web and media in order to make a name for the vendor behind it, the collateral damage being putting another thorn in Google’s side. Well played.

DLP Mobile’s other products, by the way, include a $200 vuvuzela app.

Doug Simmons