A French company offering “invisible PC spy software” has been criticised after it said its product could be used “to find out if your son is gay”.
Listing a series of “clues”, the company, Fireworld, suggested that “hacking his Facebook account” and seeing if he had visited gay websites could confirm a parent’s suspicions.
The company has since taken down the article.
The post was highlighted by a French youth LGBT rights group.
L’Amicale des jeunes du Refuge’s thread about Fireworld’s article (in French) was retweeted by French Secretary of State for Equality Marlène Schiappa, who wrote that it showed that “homophobia and sexism have their roots in the same gender stereotypes. We will fight them together”.
In its online article, since removed, the firm said that “family is fundamental. That’s why the sexual orientation of your children, directly responsible for the continuation of your family, is very important to you”.
The article went on to list the clues that might cause a parent to suspect that their son might be gay. The article makes no mention of female homosexuality.
They include “taking good care of himself”, being more interested in reading and theatre than in football, being shy as a young boy, having certain piercings and liking female singers and divas.
It then suggested a variety of ways to be sure, including “monitoring his Facebook use”, seeing “if he has visited gay forums” and “spying on his private messages”.
In a response to L’Amicale des jeunes du Refuge, Fireworld wrote that “the article had the sole aim of improving search engine optimisation and was never intended to be read by humans”.
“We regret not having reflected on the consequences of this type of content…” the firm emailed. “We sincerely apologise to all those who may have felt offended by this content,” it added.
However, the English language version of Fireworld’s site suggests a range of scenarios in which a potential customer might want to monitor someone else’s computer, including “control your teenage offspring’s PC”, checking “what your employees are doing” and “detecting infidelity in your marriage or relationship”.
It is not legal in France to install spyware on someone else’s computer in order to monitor it, without their knowledge.
Fireworld points out to customers that they must comply with the law when using their products. However, it says, “installing [its product] to make sure that your children are not endangering themselves on the Internet or on social networks, come[s] closer to being legal”.
French newspaper Liberation reports that spyware vendors are usually more subtle in their claims for their products, as French law does not allow advertising which incentivises the illegal use of such tools.
There are a range of products on the market that offer parental monitoring and report back to parents on what their children have been doing online.