Last month, a Pakistani IT professional was indicted in Virginia, USA, for allegedly conspiring to advertise and sell StealthGenie, a spyware application (app) that could monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without being detected. This marks the first-ever criminal case concerning the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app in the world of information technology across the world. Since advertising and selling spyware technology is a criminal offense in US, the accused is now facing criminal proceedings in the local court there. The spyware is capable to intercept communications to and from mobile phones, including Apples iPhone, Googles Android, and Blackberry Limiteds Blackberry. It is like committing brazen invasions of individual privacy, an activity which is squarely abhorred in a civilized society. However, the accused, Hammad, pleads the app was programmed to synchronize communications intercepted by the app with the customers account so that the customer could review intercepted communications almost immediately from any computer with access to the Internet. This kind of explanation is no more surprising while living in Pakistan as here no relevant law exists to regulate or at least control such criminal activities, no matter how innovative they are. Right from the launch of internet in Pakistan, internet protocols (IPs) are confronted with numerous flaws as far as regulating the internet activities are concerned. Cyber crimes, illegal gateways, defining parameters of innovations even under social as well as moral limitations, protection of intellectual property rights and patents need effective legislation. Since these laws would cover all relevant segments of the society, gathering inputs from all stakeholders is much more significant. However, this is unfortunate that no effective initiative has ever been taken in this regard from both public and private sectors. Government, ministries, attached departments, institutions, private organizations, universities, professionals and spy agencies need to come up with their inputs, recommendations and suggestions to incorporate the same in drafting a national document required for regulating cyber or IT activities. Initiation of a comprehensive awareness campaign is desperately needed with especially targeting universities and centers of innovations. Faculties and students are the brains of the IT sector and they should be awared of the legal as well as social aspects before going to develop apps. App development is a potential source of earning foreign exchange and no doubt Pakistan has gradually made remarkable contribution in this regard. But even then, Pakistanis especially living abroad have to be more cautious in apps market for privacy and security laws that we often dont understand and that can haunt us back.
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