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Understanding and Responding to the Privacy and Safety Risks of Stalkerware

Organization

Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto

Published

2019

Project Leader(s)

Christopher Parsons, Adam Molnar and Ronald Deibert

Summary

This project engaged in a Canadian-focused assessment of stalkerware. Stalkerware is a kind of intrusive surveillance software that a person installs on another person’s device, and uses to facilitate intimate partner violence, abuse, and harassment. Stalkerware may be repurposed legitimate software or be specifically designed for cyberstalking.

The project culminated in the publication of two reports and two associated comics. The first report, “The Predator in Your Pocket,” used a mixed methodology to assess the stalkerware ecosystem. Researchers used technical, marketing, policy, and legal assessments to better understand the ways in which stalkerware vendors developed and marketed their products, established contracts with purchasers, and why stalkerware runs afoul of PIPEDA. This report concluded with recommendations pertaining to consent, accountability and redress, and data security and data protection. An accompanying comic provided a high-level introduction to stalkerware and the harms associated with such software.

The second report, “Installing Fear,” is an in-depth legal and policy analysis of technology-facilitated intimate partner surveillance under Canadian law. The report conducted an in-depth analysis of the criminal, regulatory, and civil law consequences of using, creating, selling, or facilitating the sale of stalkerware technology in Canada. The report concluded that the creation, use, and sale of stalkerware apps can potentially violate numerous criminal, civil, privacy, and regulatory laws in Canada. An accompanying comic provided a high-level summary of a series of criminal and civil offences that are engaged in developing, selling, purchasing, or using stalkerware.

Project deliverables are available in the following language(s):

English

English (HTML summary and PDF report): The Predator in Your Pocket: A Multidisciplinary Assessment of the Stalkerware Application Industry

English (HTML summary and PDF report): Installing Fear: A Canadian Legal and Policy Analysis of Using, Developing, and Selling Smartphone Spyware and Stalkerware Applications

English (HTML comic) Abuse of Power: An Introduction to Spy Apps & Stalkerware

English (HTML comic) Know Your Rights: Spy Apps & Stalkerware

OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

Contact Information

Attn: Christopher Parsons and Ronald Deibert
315 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON
M5S 0A7
Canada
E-mail: Christopher Parsons

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