Would You Use a 'Boyfriend Tracker' App to Stealthily Stalk Your Partner?

Sure, I've been curious about what a dude's been up to ... but a tracking app? I wouldn't go there.

Aug 25, 2013 at 11:00am | Leave a comment

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Lots and lots of Brazilians were understandably pissed when they learned their country was a target of the National Security Agency's overseas spying operation, with data from billions of emails and phone calls used as part of the agency's super-secret surveillance situation. But this didn't mean some of those same people weren't bummed when a popular "boyfriend tracking" app was stealthily pulled from Google Play recently.

The app, dubbed "Rastreador de Namorados" (Portuguese for, yup, "Boyfriend Tracker"), bills itself as a "private detective in your partner's pocket." It can send tracking updates on a person's whereabouts, forward duplicates of text messages from the targeted phone, and allow a user to "force the target phone to silently call their own, like a pocket dial, so they can listen in on what the person is saying." (Uh, just me or is that some seriously scary, potentially dangerous stuff? What a fun tool for stalkers and domestic abusers!)

Despite the "Boyfriend Tracker's" blatant sketch factor when it comes to stalking, extortion, and privacy offenses up the wazoo, the app has proven incredibly popular. The app's creator says it's been downloaded by about 50,000 users since its launch two months ago, and it's still available for DL on the company's website. Of course, said company is trying to cover its hide by stipulating that the app is for "social and recreational use" -- and the download instructions say "a woman installing the tracker on her boyfriend's phone should do so 'with his consent.'" (Call me crazy, but I don't know many sane, secure people -- male or female -- who'd consent to having their partner creepily trace their every movement, snoop though their texts and listen in on their calls.)

The media attention stirred up by the program made me think of my own youthful tendency to keep tabs on BFs, and how damaging it was to some relationships. I haven't done it in years, thankfully, but I'll admit -- there have been a few Weaker Moments (mainly in my twenties) when, yeah, I caught myself logging into boyfriends' email or online dating accounts. It's happened twice, to be specific -- many years apart -- and both situations were somewhat traumatizing (for them AND for me) because I found what I feared: evidence that the dudes were being shady. Still, my investigating was wrong and I know it, and I take full responsibility for being the deeply insecure jerk who felt the need to violate a partner's privacy to satisfy my own jealous curiosity. (Jealousy has long been an issue for me.)

I've been on both sides, though, so I know how icky it feels to discover your sig other is keeping tabs on you. I still remember the gut-sick sensation of walking into my bedroom after a shower to catch my first love and then-BF reading through files on my computer (I was in college and kept a diary on it). Of course he found the especially juicy entry about how I thought I might be in love with my female roommate.

Now, being older and at least .3 percent wiser, I've been able to rein it in a little better. And, of course, the deeper issue is the underlying issue fueling my behavior to begin with -- that gross mass of jealousy and insecurity. As Lindy West notes, "Being let down by someone you trust is much less damaging than being so incapable of trust that you feel compelled to possess and control other human beings."

Have you ever snooped, stalked, or otherwise tried to keep tabs on someone you dated? How'd that work out for ya?