Technology - Peeping Tech
Jacksonville software developer helps users spy on others (legally).
To get a feel for the work of Jacksonville-based software developer Retina-X Studios, check out the company’s promotions for a few of its popular products:
AceSpy: “Secretly see everything your child or employee does online. Instantly forward their emails and chats to your email address.”
Retina-X’s software products allow users to spy, undetected, on others, including employees or family members. Company support manager Craig W. Thompson (left) says companies “have a right to do that.”? [Photo: Jon Fletcher]
Retina-X, which began life as a web design company, morphed into a spyware developer because of demand for such products from clients, says support manager Craig W. Thompson.
Retina-X released the first version of AceSpy under the RXS brand name in 2003. Today, AceSpy is highly rated because of how easily users can check the computers on which they install it — from recording every website to capturing screen shots to show exactly what the employee at work or child at home looked at.
Privacy advocates are alarmed by the technology; one telecommunications journal called MobileSpy “a gross invasion of a person’s privacy.” But such monitoring is legal under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which prohibits unauthorized interception of electronic communications such as e-mail but exempts providers, generally interpreted to include the employers who provide e-mail and internet service.
Thompson says Retina-X clients have good reasons to monitor employees, ranging from the need to protect trade secrets to preventing workers from viewing pornography in the workplace. The company suggests clients notify computer and smart phone users that they may be monitored. But some prefer the products’ secrecy “as a way to find out the ultimate truth,” Thompson says.
Thompson uses the monitoring software with his 11-year-old daughter, a condition she agreed to in exchange for cell phone and computer privileges.
Jon Mills, a University of Florida law professor who is author of the book “Privacy: The Lost Right,” says the courts are hopelessly behind what private software developers such as Retina-X can market. As much as he worries about what employees and parents can do today, he is even more concerned about what marketers — or the government — may do with the developing technology in the future. “Technology has far outstripped culture and law,” Mills says. “We’ve gotten to the point where if we can do it, we will do it.”
Retina-X is indeed making its products even stealthier this year. In the first quarter, Retina-X plans updates to MobileSpy and SniperSpy Mac, which allows users “to secretly watch your Macintosh like a television!” But the company also is branching out into new areas, such as syncing, with a product called MobileSync Pro, which allows users to sync smart phone data across multiple platforms. Thompson says revenue has more than tripled each year since the company released the first version of AceSpy.