Snoopware can monitor every step you take
"If you love someone" -- as the famous quote written by author Richard Bach goes, even though most people think Sting wrote it because Richard Bach has never been on VH1's "Behind the Music" nor shown any promise playing the lute -- "set them free."
Though the phrase is now almost as overexposed as Sting (and can trigger a similar gag reflex in bars during last call), sufficiently lovelorn Digital Slobs are quick to clutch Bach's philosophy, if only for its energy-saving properties.
After all, when relationships get rocky, it's a lot easier to leave the front door unlocked than it is to build a 20-foot-high electrified chain-link, barbed-wire fence around the house.
Even if we could outsource the hard labor, our consciences would never allow us to restrain love in such a way. Even if they did, just try getting the blueprints past the condo board.
Unfortunately, in an age where even a large Meat Lover's Pizza can track you down via IP address, the temptation to cling to bad relationships is only amplified by the many and varied surveillance tools now available. You no longer have to be a thin-skinned CEO, an FBI agent overdosing on the Patriot Act or a diaper-wearing astronaut with a full tank of gas to take snooping too far.
In the 21st century, the "set them free" axiom has a new ending: "If they love you, they will return. If they never return, then you can tail them by triangulating their car's GPS signal and confront them right as they drive up to that home wrecker's front door."
Case in freaked-out point: Trapware.com, a company that sells spyware-detecting software, displays a user testimonial on its home page from a woman whose ex-boyfriend secretly installed a key-stroke recording program on her home computer.
When she e-mailed her mother, he knew. When she applied for a job, he knew. When she ran out of cyan in her inkjet printer and had to order a replacement cartridge, he knew.
Many of these so-called "monitoring aids" are sold on the pretense that they help parents protect kids, assuming that even the staunchest free spirits still want their household's high school sophomore living in a fascist state.
And, they're getting better. SnoopStick is a device that's as user-friendly as it is Orwellian. Simply stick the key chain-size gadget into the USB drive of your "child's" computer, then take a minute to download spyware into it. Once done, take SnoopStick with you to any computer, anywhere. Then microwave some popcorn, get comfy and enjoy the show.
The $60 SnoopStick can monitor both e-mails and instant messages coming in and out of the "patient zero" computer. It can deny access to MySpace with one click, cut off Internet access and even shut down the machine being observed.
Like any absolute power, however, such monitoring devices promise to corrupt absolutely. Don't be surprised if you get so addicted to doling out remote-controlled discipline that you get fired for goofing off on the job. Those who live by the snoop can die by the snoop.