Trust is like love.
You want to believe in it, but then your rational side kicks in and dents your faith.
Here at the Ministry of Failed Relationships, we understand this. There is nothing worse than committing yourself to someone who poses as your soulmate, only to discover that their soul has drunkenly mated with a passing half-sized halfwit.
One company has -- perhaps inadvertently -- stumbled upon a notion that might ease your worried brow. Or confirm your dearest fear. For it is now offering phones that have built-in spyware.
mSpy created its software with a mind to, say, help parents track their unruly teens. Now, however, with the release of preloaded phones such as the HTC One, Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5S, you can merely buy your lover a gift and watch it keep on giving.
Mind you, mSpy's founder, Andrei Shimanovich, told Forbes it's not actually his business how people will end up using this nifty software.
Or think of it this way: spy software doesn't spy on people, but rather people spy on other people.
Indeed, though the concept of spying has enjoyed some nuanced developments over the last few months, I was reasonably sure that spying on my lover would be illegal.
So for starters I thought I'd IM with an mSpy rep to see how easy this whole thing was. I posed as a troubled lover, and in return got what seemed to be rather canned answers.
Me: "Can I really spy on my lover with this? I think she may be cheating on me."
Karen, the sales manager: "You can do that once you install mSpy on her phone."
Me: "Is it easy to install?"
Karen: "It is very easy and fast to install mSpy on the target phone."
Me: "But how can I do it without her knowing?"
Karen: "We can walk you through installation after purchase."
I then told Karen which type of phone I'd like to track. An iPhone 5. Yes, I imagine my perfect, imaginary lover has an iPhone 5.
Karen's reply: "Dear Customer, please be advised that an iPhone must be jailbroken before the installation, but the process is very fast and easy - it takes only few minutes to jailbreak an iPhone. You can check on how to jailbreak an iPhone on http://iclarified.com/jailbreak and http://evasi0n.com/ for iOS 7 +. Kindly be advised that we're the only company who assists with jailbreak. Once an iPhone is jailbroken Cydia icon will appear on the Springboard. But you can hide it after you install the app, so there will be no traces left."
I confess that there was a certain side of me that felt excited, although if I was to spy on my imaginary lover there would surely soon be no traces of the relationship left.
Moreover, the legalities were still preying on my conscience. When I asked "But how can I do it without her knowing?" I fear that my IM buddy heard only "how can I do it" and provided merely a practical response, missing the "without her knowing" portion of the question and its deeper foray into the ethics of the situation. Or maybe that was something for later in the discussion, when we got down to brass tacks.
Still curious, I wandered over to the mSpy legal agreement. It reads, in part:
It is a considered federal and/or state violation of the law in most cases to install surveillance software onto a mobile phone or other device for which you do not have proper authorization, and in most cases you are required to notify users of the device that they are being monitored. Failure to do so may result in a violation of federal or state laws, if you install this software onto a device you do not own or if you do not have proper consent to monitor the user of the device.
After these words of warning, in large blue type is: "We absolutely do not endorse the use of our software for illegal purposes."
But I always thought that all was legal in love and war.
Still, was mSpy just ever so slightly encouraging me to spy on my lover?
I've had lovers sneak into my emails and probe my phone. When I discovered them, their reply was always: "What? You thought I wouldn't? Do I look stupid?" Or expressions to that effect.
So perhaps all this spying is, indeed, quite normal. But it won't have mSpy's official seal of approval.
An mSpy spokeswoman told me:
mSpy does advocate notifying users of the device that they are being monitored. During the installation stage (which had yet to be approached), users need to tick off a few boxes confirming that they have informed the monitored party and got his/her consent. As well, customer services representatives are required to share with you this information as you navigate the process. mSpy's disclaimer clearly state that we do not approve of the illegal use of our software and in the case when the legal breach has been identified we will cooperate with relevant authorities, if required.
I leave all this, therefore, to your conscience, just as I leave national security to the consciences of those who direct it.
Most people will admit that they'd dearly wished they had evidence to back up their suspicions, when they thought their lovers were less than faithful.
But those suspicions in themselves surely described the truth of the relationship.
The difficulty, of course, is waiting for that truth to emerge. Some wait for days, months or even years to discover that what they'd feared was true. Or, more painfully, to discover that the truth was even worse than they'd feared.
Spying can never save a relationship. All it can save is time.