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Domestic spies

Technology | Husbands and wives in troubled marriages turn to spy gear

A hidden camera in a bedside alarm clock. Spyware installed on a mobile phone. A magnetic GPS tracking device attached to the underbody of a Mitsubishi Eclipse. Curiously, these surveillance tools weren’t planted by detectives, but by suspicious spouses.

Both the Houston Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal reported the increase in jealous husbands and wives using software and devices to spy on mates they suspect are involved in affairs. The eavesdropping activities often come to light in court, either during divorce proceedings or afterward. (In one case, a woman sewed a device into her son’s blue jeans to secretly record her ex-husband.)

Jealous spouses have recorded phone calls for decades, but as surveillance technology increases in sophistication and shrinks in size and price, their options are expanding: For just $100 to $200, software installed on a mobile phone or home computer can log keystrokes and intercept emails and texts, or a hidden GPS tracker can map out where a vehicle travels each week. Spy gear shops offer even more imaginative options. The website of Aaron Gregory Vehicle Tracking & Spy Equipment sells video cameras hidden inside pens, houseplants, and brown teddy bears. “Catch your cheating spouse with our spy equipment,” the company invites.

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Judges’ opinions differ, but at least five U.S. circuit courts have ruled that spousal surveillance violates the Federal Wiretap Act.

Foreign spies?

STR/AFP/GettyImages

The House Intelligence Committee warned U.S. officials and companies against doing business with Huawei Technologies and ZTE, two major Chinese telecom companies, after concluding they could “undermine core U.S national-security interests.”

Huawei and ZTE have tried to expand sales of routers and network equipment in the United States, but security experts worry the Chinese government could coerce the two companies into planting bugged hardware that could steal data or disrupt communication. Last year the Commerce Department blocked Huawei from bidding to build a national wireless network for emergency responders. Earlier this year the Reuters news agency revealed ZTE had sold surveillance equipment to Iran, along with embargoed U.S.-made hardware and software.

The House committee said it found evidence Huawei had engaged in bribery and transmitted U.S. computer data to China. Both companies deny they are controlled by Chinese officials, and Huawei called the committee’s report “little more than an exercise in China-bashing.” —D.J.D.

Blight finder

Handout

The city of New Orleans launched an online map enabling homeowners, real estate investors, and nonprofit organizations to track urban decay easily, and perhaps counter it. The map, developed by the nonprofit Code for America and hosted at blightstatus.nola.gov, is linked to city data and marks property addresses where inspectors found broken windows, crumbling siding or roofing, or overgrown lawns. The website indicates whether the city has notified the property owner or issued a judgment, and the map format makes it easy to see particular neighborhoods with clusters of blighted homes. According to one sociological theory, blemishes like broken windows invite larger crimes: Blight maps could shine an early light on problem properties. —D.J.D.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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