FTC stops Jacksonville-based company from selling "stalker apps"

Cracking down on stalking apps

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Federal Trade Commission has stopped a developer from selling what it calls “stalking apps” that track cellphones.

Retina-X Studios, LLC, based in Jacksonville, is accused of failing to stop hackers from accessing people’s personal information.

The settlement with the FTC said in 2017, a hacker broke into one of the apps and accessed a user’s text messages, photos, passwords and more.

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The complaint involves three apps called Mobile Spy, PhoneSheriff and TeenShield.

An attorney for the company said, “While the firm’s clients were the unfortunate victims of a skilled hacker, they would like to thank the FTC for its professionalism during the course of the investigation.”

The settlement now requires the company to delete data collected from the apps and use a security program.

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The FTC said the company sold more than 15,000 subscriptions before it stopped selling the apps last year.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) partnered with the FTC to come up with better safeguards for victims at risk of being monitored by abusers through the apps.

“It's a complete invasion of privacy and a huge safety concern,” NNEDV Safety Net Project Manager Erica Olsen said. "There's many more of these apps that exist. We would like to see continued action taken against the companies that produce these kinds of apps."