Cheating Boyfriends? There's an App for That.

They don't just sneak around, they sleep around. And if they're already in a relationship, they're called cheaters. In Japan, tech has helped them get away scott free for years. That's changed.

With new smartphones and GPS tracking, it's now possible to find phones—and presumably their owners. But what about privacy? And the law? Ha!

On Aug. 30 in Japan, an Android smartphone app called Kare Log ("Boyfriend Log") launched, allowing girlfriends to track smartphone GPS data via PC as well as the phone's remaining battery life and call history.

If a boyfriend were cheating, the phone's location and call history might reveal his subterfuge. Knowing the battery life could snuff out the oh-my-phone-died excuse. The app's website initially promoted Kare Log as a way to secretly find out if you're boyfriend was a weasel.

According to The Mainichi Daily News (via @markwillacy and @hawkenking), the day Kare Log was released, protest emails were sent to the app's developer, Tokyo-based developer Manuscript.

The complaints were not simply legions of boyfriends upset that their wandering ways would be curbed. The Japanese government even chimed in.

"One cannot deny that this application was a monitoring tool at the time of its release."

Within days of Kare Log's release, antivirus software provider McAfee labeled the app as a "Potentially Unwanted Program" or "PUP", because, like spyware, the app did not clearly label that it had been installed on the smartphone. Manuscript dialled back the app, releasing an update that displayed an icon on the installed phone to show it was running.

"The consent of a tracked individual is very important," Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications told The Mainichi Daily News. "There were problems with the way Kare Log was advertised."

Legally, it is okay if individuals sign up themselves for tracking services, or if parents use said services to locate their children's phones. The courtroom caveat is when the person being being tracked isn't someone's child or didn't give his or her consent.

Kare Log is a high-tech version of a similar service that's been offered in Japan for decades: following people. Worried ones can hire private detectives to follow their spouses and take photos and video that, if there's hanky-panky, should catch their better-half red handed. According to DannyChoo.com, these services are not cheap, and can cost up to ¥85,000 (US$1100). One service, called Officel, even offers to following your spouse in a helicopter or a hummer. Discrete it ain't. Badass, it is.

To combat these detective services, Japan even has alibi services that can help cheaters cover up their cheating ways, whether that be bogus phone numbers, emails, or even helping coming up with fake stories. Back in 2004, I wrote in Wired that there was a cell phone service that would help unfaithful create retouched cell phone photos. A radio station even played ambient street audio so your significant other wouldn't know you've checked into a love hotel with a fuck buddy.

Kare Log is the latest effort in the war on infidelity. "Putting an application like this on another person's smartphone is an idea that we have not seen until now, and may indicate that respect for privacy has weakened," lawyer Ryoji Mori told The Mainichi Daily News. "One cannot deny that this application was a monitoring tool at the time of its release."

Smartphones, such as the iPhone, already have monitoring services on them like "Find My Friends"—something that, according to sister site Gawker, have already apparently broken up at least one marriage.

Yet, apps like Kare Log and even "Find My Friends" to a lesser extent, bring up privacy issues and concern that our lives, even if we're not doing anything wrong, are open books. Kare Log's developer Manuscript realized it crossed the line.

"We were still a largely unknown company, so I thought that we could grab attention by focusing on anti-cheating programs, but we went too far," Manuscript's President Yoshinori Miura said. "I didn't think we get so much criticism."

(Top photo: Junji Kurokawa | AP)

You can contact Brian Ashcraft, the author of this post, at bashcraft@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.
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