App Review: SeenEarly for Android is a Scary Stalker thing

1288seenearly.jpgIt’s not often I get freaked out by an app. I mean usually the worst they do is make fart noises – but SeenEarly for Android does actually make me a bit scared.

It’s a fully-featured surveillance app that syncs your phone with another phone or PC and lets the other person see pretty much everything you do on your handset. Let’s just lay that out:
– it will send a copy of all texts you send or receive to the other phone
– it will make a record of all calls you make including time, duration and who the calls are to (picked up from your contacts list) and send it to the other phone
– it can read and collect what you enter into phone apps like Facebook and Twitter including private messages

Seenearly is not compatible with all other apps on the Android, but it can read and store your keystrokes, so would be able to track pretty much everything you ever do on your phone.

I asked CEO Peter Karsten why he had invented this app which sounds like something from George Orwell’s nightmares and he sketched out 3 possible uses:
1) for lovers who want to keep track of what their other half is up to
2) for employers tracking how their employees use work gadgets
3) for parents who give their children phones and want to make sure they don’t get cyber-bullied.

The information flow can be two-way (as in the lovers scenario) or one-way so one phone will see the information from the other.

SeenEarly is also invisible – while most apps sit on your homescreen, this goes incognito so unless you know the app has been downloaded onto your phone, you won’t be aware that someone else is monitoring everything you do on your phone.

To me this creates massive problems around privacy and data protection. I’m not sold on the Romeo and Juliet blurb either – the first thing you read on their home page:

Basically if your boyfriend/girlfriend ask you to download this – dump them asap. Wanting this kind of control and access to someone else’s life is not a sign of love, more of psychosis. Just saying.

I’m really not sure if this thing is legal, though obviously it got into the Android store successfully and they are building versions of it for Blackberry and iPhone.

CEO of app-makers Acquad Peter Karsten was articulate but not very convincing about how this would help with things like cyber-bullying. It means you can track what your child is doing on their phone, but I still don’t see how it could stop anything like that happening.

I also asked whether the people at SeenEarly could see all the data that users were willingly letting go of. He said that they could, also mentioning that it was very valuable information that would be really useful to advertisers. I asked whether they intended to sell it to advertisers. He said that SeenEarly didn’t but refused to comment on whether they ever would.

Conclusion: NO.

Seenearly website here

Anna Leach