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Brazilian app similar to teenager-location trackers used to stalk boyfriends

A Brazilian app similar to many teenager location monitoring programs was removed from Google's app store because it was being marketed as a way to track boyfriends and lead to privacy complaints. 

By StaffAssociated Press / August 22, 2013

A woman poses for a photo using her smart phone in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.

AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

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Rio de Janeiro

Brazilians were outraged when they learned their country was a top target of the U.S. National Security Agency's overseas spying operation, with data from billions of calls and emails swept up in Washington's top secret surveillance program.

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Yet when it comes to the cloak and dagger effort of catching philandering lovers, all high-tech weapons appear to be fair game – at least to the tens of thousands of Brazilians who downloaded "Boyfriend Tracker" to their smart phones before the stealthy software was removed from the Google Play app store last week, apparently in response to complaints about privacy abuses and its potential to be used for extortion or even stalking.

"Brazilians are a jealous people, what can I say? Of course it's going to be popular," said Marcia Almeida, a 47-year-old woman in Rio whose marriage ended seven years ago in large part because of what she said was her husband's infidelity.

"It's a different type of spying," she said of comparisons to the NSA surveillance program. "You're checking up on somebody you know intimately, not some stranger."

The app, called "Rastreador de Namorados" (Portuguese for Boyfriend Tracker), promises to act like a "private detective in your partner's pocket."

Functions include sending the person doing the tracking updates on their partner's location and forwarding duplicates of text message traffic from the targeted phone. There is even a command that allows a user to force the target phone to silently call their own, like a pocket dial, so they can listen in on what the person is saying.

Similar apps are marketed for smart phone users in other countries, including Europe and the US, but Boyfriend Tracker is the first that has made any impact in Brazil, a country still irate as it learns more about Washington's snooping. Brazil has sent a government delegation to meet with U.S. leaders about the spy program that was revealed by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has been on the run since May and was recently granted asylum in Russia.

Google spokeswoman Gina Johnson said by email that as a policy the company doesn't comment on why apps are removed.

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