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'Cheater's apps' can boomerang also

apps Updated: Oct 22, 2012 17:59 IST

New smartphone applications that have been designed to help cheaters cover their tracks can also be turned back on the user, thereby prompting calls for stronger privacy laws and a warning by the federal Attorney-General's office on the use of "spyware".

Some of the new "cheater's" apps conceal incriminating calls and texts while others allow them to be kept off the bill and one program even causes messages to self-destruct after they are read.

The latest among these applications is CATE, which stands for Call and Text Eraser. Launched last month by American student Neal Desai, it hides calls and SMSs from selected contacts until a secret code is entered. Should a partner walk in while an illicit message is being typed, a quick shake will erase it.

But beware, like many of these apps CATE can also be used in reverse, the Age reported.

For instance, Partner A can secretly download CATE on to Partner B's phone creating an invisible record of calls and texts even after Partner B has deleted them.

Other apps available to those trying to keep tabs on their partners include one that allows you to secretly "'dial in'" and listen to someone's phone and another that says you can "'see their movements and get directions to their location'."

A Victoria police spokeswoman was not able to say how many instances there had been of smartphones being used to "stalk" a partner because the police database was not set up to track that specific information.

A spokeswoman for federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said that the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 "may apply" to spyware on smartphones, with penalties of up to two years' imprisonment for unlawful interception.

According to her, the proliferation of smartphones had prompted the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to review privacy laws, and that the government would consider "the creation of a new right to sue where serious invasions of privacy occur."