The owner of a Port Jefferson Station-based consortium of 16 companies has agreed to pay $410,000 in penalties for illegally promoting spyware that allowed individuals to monitor another person’s device without their awareness, New York Attorney General Letitia James said Thursday.

Patrick Hinchy and his companies sold software products that allowed users to secretly monitor Skype, WhatsApp, text messages, social media, phone logs and browser history, James said. Hinchy’s companies must also modify their apps to alert device owners that their devices are being monitored.

The companies’ advertisements and promotions led customers to believe that using their products for spying was legal, James said, but using stalkerware to monitor another adult’s mobile device without their consent is a violation of state and federal laws. 

“Snooping on a partner and tracking their cell phone without their knowledge isn’t just a sign of an unhealthy relationship, it is against the law,” James said. “These apps and products put New Yorkers at risk of stalking and domestic abuse, and were aggressively promoted by Patrick Hinchy through 16 different companies. Today’s agreement will block these companies from allowing New Yorkers to be monitored without their awareness.”

Hinchy could not be reached for comment. 

The companies owned by Hinchy promoted several apps as tools to spy on spouses or intimate partners without their awareness or consent, according to the attorney general. An investigation by James’ office found that Hinchy and his companies, which include the Powerline Group Inc., also misrepresented their refund and data security policies, failed to disclose the potential harm to a device caused by the installation of their products, and created sham review sites to lure customers into purchasing and using the stalkerware products.

The investigation revealed that Hinchy created numerous websites that purported to provide independent technology advice, but in reality, solely promoted the stalkerware products sold by Hinchy’s companies, James said.

Customers were also misled by confusing refund policies and false claims regarding the data security of information obtained by the stalkerware products, the attorney general's office said.

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