New York fines businessman who sold stalkerware as legal mobile apps

For at least five years, a New York businessman had successfully promoted his mobile apps to interested customers. It turns out that these apps were illegal stalkerware – the entrepreneur has been fined.

The New York Attorney General's Office has fined Patrick Hinchy $410,000 for misleading customers into thinking mobile apps he was advertising on the web were legal to use.

Letitia James, New York Attorney General, said apps developed by Hinchy and advertised through a network of 16 software companies were spyware.

These apps were allowing abusers to track the location and communication of partners and spouses without their knowledge – an action that violates numerous state and federal laws.

“The software products sold by Hinchy’s companies allowed users to secretly monitor activity on another device, including call logs, text messages, photos and videos, location, Gmail activity, WhatsApp and Skype messages, social media activity, and browsing history,” the press release said.

In addition to the fine, Hinchy will have to modify all spyware apps to alert device owners that their devices are being monitored without their consent or knowledge. This will inevitably diminish the primary value of Hinchy’s apps.

“Snooping on a partner and tracking their cell phone without their knowledge isn’t just a sign of an unhealthy relationship, it is against the law,” Attorney General James said.

Spyware apps identified by New York officials as spyware in court documents include Auto Forward, Easy Spy, DDI Utilities, Highster Mobile, PhoneSpector, Surepoint, and TurboSpy. All these were promoted as tools to spy on spouses or partners without their awareness.

The investigation also revealed that Hinchy created numerous websites that purported to provide independent technical advice. In reality, he solely promoted the stalkerware products sold by his companies.

The crook’s stalkerware companies also failed to disclose the need to perform an invasive procedure, known as rooting, for Android devices or jailbreaking on Apple devices and the risks associated with such procedures.

Finally, customers were also misled by confusing refund policies and false claims regarding the data security of information obtained by the stalkerware products.

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