People who engage in technology-facilitated violence, abuse, and harassment sometimes install spyware on a targeted person’s mobile phone. Known as ‘stalkerware’, this technology allows a operator to reach inside a target’s phone to terrorize, control, and manipulate current and former partners. And two Citizen Lab reports pull the curtains back on this shadowy and underreported area of spyware.

The Predator in your Pocket and Installing Fear investigate the stalkerware industry through two distinct lenses: the former provides an interdisciplinary scan of the stalkerware market and includes technical, marketing, and privacy policy analyses, while the latter provides a study of how stalkerware fits into the Canadian legal landscape.

“In theory, we found that there are laws in place to protect the victims of stalkerware,” research fellow Cynthia Khoo told the Toronto Star.

Empowering targets to know that they have legal protections is paramount given the increasing scale of the problem: an NPR a survey of 72 domestic violence shelters in the United States found that 85% of domestic violence workers assisted victims whose abuser tracked them using GPS. While the technical and legal remedies outlined in these reports might provide important relief in the context of consumer spyware, the ongoing struggle to transcend patriarchal gender inequalities, misogyny, and corrosive societal norms around controlling, abusive, and violent behaviour directed at women, girls, non-binary persons, and children is an undertaking that requires critical and supportive communities at its core.