The Federal Trade Commission has given final approval to a settlement with the developer of three “stalking” apps over allegations the company and its owner failed to secure the data collected by the apps and ensure the apps were used for legitimate purposes.
The apps—MobileSpy, PhoneSheriff and TeenShield—sold by Retina-X Studios, LLC allowed purchasers to monitor the mobile devices on which they were installed, without the knowledge or permission of the device’s user. The FTC alleged that the apps compromised the security of the devices by requiring purchasers to bypass mobile device manufacturer restrictions. In addition, while Retina-X claimed in its legal policies that the apps were intended for monitoring employees and children, Retina-X did not take any steps to ensure that its apps were being used for these purposes.
The FTC also alleged that Retina-X failed to adopt and implement reasonable information security policies and procedures, conduct security testing on its mobile apps, and conduct adequate oversight of its service providers. The FTC further alleged that Retina-X violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by failing to take reasonable measures to secure the personal information it collected from children.
Under the settlement, Retina-X and its owner James N. Johns, Jr. are prohibited from promoting, selling, or distributing apps that monitor consumers’ mobile devices unless they take certain steps to ensure the apps will only be used for legitimate purposes. They also are prohibited from promoting, selling, or distributing any monitoring app that requires users to circumvent a device’s security protections to install the app, without ensuring the app will be used for legitimate purposes. Other provisions of the settlement require that Retina-X and Johns delete the data they collected from the stalking apps and implement a comprehensive information security program designed to protect the personal information they collect.
After receiving one comment on the settlement, the Commission voted 5-0 to finalize the settlement and send a response to the commenter.
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Juliana Gruenwald Henderson
Office of Public Affairs