I was alerted on Twitter by a reader about their interesting blog entry Something New To Think About at 30,000 Feet (Flying and Spying). In the article, the writer highlights this product:
It’s the Stealth iBot PC Monitor and, in essence, it’s a simple device that enables you to install spyware on any PC computer in under ten seconds.
As the vendor describes in the Skymall catalog:
Easy To Use & Undetectable Total Computer Spying Tool Covertly Monitors Passwords, Chatting, Photos, Websites & More: Insert In USB, And In 5 Seconds Data Nano iBots Monitor All Computer Activity On ALL USER ACCOUNTS w/o Tell-Tale Hardware Left Behind
- Covertly Record Everything A Person Does On A Computer
- Remove Stealth iBot After 5 Seconds: No Hardware Left Behind
- Undetectable By Most Anti-Spyware Applications
- Store Up to 10,000 Screenshots & Virtually Unlimited Text
- Total Surveillance – Record All Computer Activity – Even On Other User Accounts
- Works With Any PC Computer Including Laptops
Are you shocked that they’re selling this? I mean, really, doe everyone who reads Skymall while bored on an airplane flight need to be confronted with something that’s the digital equivalent of a lock picking kit, only easier?
I think not! To complain, I went to the Skymall site and clicked on the convenient “Customer Service” link, filled in their form, and submitted this message:
I just noticed this product in your catalog:
As a computer security professional, I am shocked that you would promote this and would like to suggest that it has no good, legitimate or valid uses in any situation and that you should pull it from the catalog immediately.
Customer service responded within an hour, which is quite impressive, until I read the message:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us at SkyMall. We do appreciate your time and comments. However I am sadden about your dissatisfaction about one of items. Here at SkyMall we feel that all of our items are properly working items. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you and thank you for bringing this to our attention. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at 1-800-759-6255.
SkyMall Customer Service
Really? That’s it? “we feel that all of our items are properly working” and no response at all to a customer complaint about what they’re listing in the catalog?
I will be optimistic and hope that my complaint is sent up the ladder from the first level customer service – obviously someone will minimal training – to someone in corporate who can actually respond in a meaningful manner.
Still, do you think I’ll ever see another response from Skymall?
I doubt these folks will get back to you (or anyone)or remove the product. Here is the bio and ownership of the magazine & website. Another venture owned by equity funds with offshore CS bots.
The SkyMall catalog is seen by approximately 88% of all domestic air passengers reaching more than 650 million air travelers annually.
The SkyMall brand is almost universally known among affluent and well-educated travelers who are receptive to innovative, unique products.
SkyMall is owned by NY-based private equity fund, Spire Capital Partners and The Greenspun Corporation. Corporate offices are located in Phoenix, Arizona.
SkyMall was founded in 1990.
Rather to my surprise, I got this email just now:
My name is Joey O’Donnell and I am SkyMall’s customer experience manager. Dianna passed your e-mail through to me today. I wanted to let you know that I have forwarded it through to our merchandising department for review. I can understand your concerns. This item is intended for use on machines that the purchaser owns. The item has been well received by those customers whom do not have the tech skills necessary to implement a more complex monitoring process on their computers. This device makes it easy for parents to monitor the web activity of their children. To install the device on a computer, the user must be logged into the computer with installation rights.
I appreciate you reaching out and sharing your thoughts and concerns on the item. We love to hear from our customers.
Customer Experience Manager
I am pleasantly surprised that you received a thoughtful response from SkyMall on this issue. However, I remain unconvinced by their argument that the device in question is ‘intended for use’ by a certain demographic, as though that intent legitimizes what is overall an invasive and frightening gadget to sell. Guns are ‘intended for use’ by hunters or for protection, but that doesn’t make them safe or innocuous! Also, all of the bullet points describing the device make it sound as though it is for use in a much less savory way than protecting your kids from internet predators. They in no way imply that the device should be installed only on your own computer. There’s a big song and dance about how it’s ‘undetectable’, and it even says ‘Record All Computer Activity – Even On Other User Accounts ‘.
In any event I appreciate your raising this question with SkyMall. Did they ever get back to you after ‘forwarding’ your inquiry to their merchandising department?
nope, that’s the last I’ve heard from them to date, Molly.