The head of a Pakistani company which created an app called StealthGenie allowing users to spy on other people's mobile devices was indicted on US criminal charges, officials said Monday.
The Justice Department said the indictment of Hammad Akbar, 31, of Lahore, Pakistan, is the first-ever criminal case concerning the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app.
Akbar is chief executive of InvoCode Pvt Ltd, which advertises and sells StealthGenie online and which uses a data center based in Virginia.
The app enables the monitoring of voice calls and chats on mobile devices such as the Apple iPhone and Android handsets.
According to officials the business plan of the group was to market the app to people who suspected cheating by a spouse or partner.
Akbar was charged in the indictment with conspiracy, sale of a surreptitious interception device and related charges.
He was arrested in Los Angeles last week and was to appear before a magistrate judge in federal court in California, according to a justice department statement.
"Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it's a crime," said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell.
"Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim's personal life -- all without the victim's knowledge."
The indictment alleges that StealthGenie allowed the purchaser to monitor a person's incoming and outgoing voice calls, e-mails and SMS messages, and provided access to voicemail messages, address books, photographs and videos on the device.
StealthGenie is among several apps that can monitor activity of a mobile device. The company's website was shut down by court order, but a cached version included a disclaimer saying the software must not be used to monitor the smartphone of anyone over 18 without their written consent.