Is it possible to legally monitor a mobile telephone?
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Is the sale of spying applications legal?

Let us start this article with some explanations relating to the legal sale of spyware by the developers that place it on the market. In fact if we study the wording of the law in detail relating to spying, or the fact of spying on a person without their knowledge, whether this is by using a spy software application installed on their telephone or by any other means, we can clearly see that this is illegal and can be punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to €45,000.

European law is actually very strict concerning respect for private life and in no way is it authorised to use this method to obtain information relating to the private life of a person, whatever your intentions or reasons may be.

In this case we may therefore ask why it is so easy to find this type of software and download it online through a simple subscription. In fact, the websites that sell this spyware are totally free to commercialise it and are in no way illegal, even the software itself is authorised under European law. However, as we shall explain in detail later on, this marketing authorisation only relates to certain legal uses of this spyware that notably require that the targeted user is informed of the presence of this software on their telephone. 

To summarise, we can simply just underline the fact that although spyware by its name alone may give rise to a certain reputation, as long as the actual telephone user is aware of its presence then the word ‘spy’ is not really suitable, surveillance software may be more appropriate. Of course many people continue to use this type of software for illegal purposes, for example to monitor the activities of their spouse in cases of possible infidelity or other personal reasons. This is of course relatively simple as this type of software is entirely discreet and, once it has been manually installed, it is undetectable to the telephone user. However, if you are tempted into using spyware in such a manner without advising the person concerned then you risk the possibility of legal action if the person concerned discovers what you are doing and lodges an official complaint against you  for invasion of privacy.

 In fact, the purchase and download of these applications is completed freely without any possible control from the seller relating to the usage made by the user which does create certain opportunities. Therefore, the company that sells this software cannot be held responsible for non-consensual surveillance and any possible consequences.


How can this spyware be used legally and risk free?

In reality, before explaining in a concrete manner which types of usage are legally acceptable for this spyware, we should note here that you can find various models of surveillance software available on the open market. Some of this software, as we explained earlier, has the particularity of being undetectable to the user of the telephone in which it has been installed. But this is not the case with all the surveillance software applications available as others enable the display of an icon in the menu of the targeted telephone. It should also be noted that for the undetectable spyware there is an option that allows you to display this icon if you wish so that it can be used in total transparency.

To use such monitoring software legally it is necessary that the person using the targeted telephone is made aware of the presence of this software on their telephone in one way or another. Also, and as we shall again examine in detail later on, certain specific cases such as parents wishing to ensure the safety of their children or employers wishing to monitor their employees work activities are also authorised but again with the prior agreement of that person.

Of course the spyware that you find on the market is also designed to maximise discretion and therefore could also be used to monitor a person’s activities without their knowledge. However when the user has been warned of the illegal nature of such activities and the risks they are thereby exposed to then the responsibility of such an act is theirs alone and only they are liable to be penalised under the law as we have previously mentioned.


Is it legally possible to monitor your children using spyware?

Let us initially examine the particular case of parents that wish to monitor their children at a distance using this type of surveillance software. In fact, these are the main users of these spyware applications as they assist in ensuring the safety of children using modern technology.

If the child is a minor and under your legal responsibility and you own the telephone and associated number then you have the legal right to install spyware on that telephone. But you should be aware that the privacy laws are also applicable here and you must therefore advise your child of the software’s presence on their telephone.

The surveillance possibilities of your child offered by this software are actually quite numerous with notably the geo-localisation that enables you to know where they are, the possibility of being warned when they enter or exit a particular geographical area, the remote activation of the microphone to listen to what is happening around them, access to their social media and instant messaging accounts, the consultation of their internet browser history and of course details relating to their telephone calls and SMS messages sent and received from their telephone.

Of course, even if it reassures you to be able to access to all this information but you prefer to remain legal by informing your child of the spyware presence on their telephone this could obviously lead to friction. Luckily the spyware developers have thought of this too and it is possible to activate or deactivate certain surveillance functions from the dashboard. In this way you can reach an agreement with your child and leave them some privacy by monitoring only certain functions for their safety.


Can you monitor employees’ activities legally using spyware?

The second case in which spyware is particularly used concerns the surveillance of employees by a company. This practise is effectively legal but also only under certain conditions.

In fact, the employees must be informed in writing of this practise and even sign an authorisation for you to install this software on their telephone or computer. Once written consent has been obtained from the employee you are free to use the spyware. 

Another point, it is important to know that the personal and private information and data that is accessible by the company using this software should under all circumstances remain private and confidential and cannot be used by the company in any way apart from that relating to the employee’s quality of work. It should equally be noted that a boss cannot under any circumstances install spyware on the private telephone or computer of their employees. This type of software can only be installed on devices that belong to the company and cannot be used outside of the employee’s work environment.

Yet they do have a real use as they particularly enable you to follow the movements and itineraries of sales representatives or delivery drivers and ensure that the latter use their professional devices only for professional use to perform their work without abuse for example by using social networks during their work time. It is actually possible to manage their access to these applications by for example blocking them using the dashboard.

To conclude, although this spyware can be used discreetly in an illegal and untraceable manner we would highly recommend that you respect the law and use these applications only in a legal and authorised manner, ensuring that the person monitored is informed of the presence of this software on the telephone or computer they use, even if it may be tempting to spy on their activities without their knowledge.