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FTC Cracks Down on Stalking Apps

The Federal Trade Commission has taken its first action against "stalking apps."

The FTC announced Tuesday (Oct. 22) that it had reached settlements with Retina-X Studios, LLC and its owner, James N. Johns, Jr. requiring them to delete the data they had collected and barring them from selling the apps that monitor mobile devices unless they can ensure they will "only be used for legitimate purposes."

The FTC vote on the settlement was 5-0.

Specifically the settlement "prohibits Retina-X and Johns from promoting, selling, or distributing any monitoring app that requires users to circumvent a device’s security protections to install it, absent reasonable steps to ensure that the app is being used for legitimate purposes."

The FTC says that while promoting that the information it collected from mobile devices was safe, it was not, and that sensitive info was available for purchase.

“Although there may be legitimate reasons to track a phone, these apps were designed to run surreptitiously in the background and are uniquely suited to illegal and dangerous uses," said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, signaling there is a new "stalking app" sheriff in town. "Under these circumstances, we will seek to hold app developers accountable for designing and marketing a dangerous product," he said.