The commodification of mobile phone surveillance: An analysis of the consumer spyware industry

Diarmaid Harkin1, Adam Molnar1
1Deakin University , Burwood, Australia

This presentation will report on the findings of an investigation into the consumer spyware industry. While consumers of ‘spyware’ have often been government and law enforcement, there is an increasing attempt to market, sell and commodify ‘spyware’ for use by wider audiences. ‘Spyware’ is now sold as a security-product aimed at businesses, parents, and intimate partners. This paper will report on an investigation into 9 prominent spyware vendors outlining their attempts to commodify their product. Spyware vendors face particularly fraught marketing challenges as the general deployment of spyware is (a) often utilised in forms of intimate partner abuse, (b) corrosive to many forms of social relations, and (c) has limited contexts where it could be deployed without violating surveillance laws. This paper compares the social meaning vendors attempt to give to spyware and contrasts this against the powers of surveillance provided by the product. Some notes from the technical and user-analysis of the spyware will also be provided.

Dr Diarmaid Harkin is an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin University. His current active research projects examine private security companies collaboratig with family violence services, the consumer spyware industry, and the challenges of cyber-policing.

Dr Adam Molnar is a lecturer in Criminology at Deakin University. His research is primarily interested in the intersections of technology, surveillance, privacy, policing and information security.


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