How to spy on your own phone (and why you’d want to)

Photo: Irina Shatilova (Shutterstock)

Photo: Irina Shatilova (Shutterstock)

Do you have a sneaking suspicion that your partner is spying on your phone? It’s a big accusation, and confronting them without proof is taking a risky path. If you’re in a situation where you think your partner (or anyone else in the house) is looking through your iPhone or Android while you sleep, there’s a built-in tool that can help you confirm or deny your suspicions.

This tip comes from Redditor georgewastaken3. Their post was aimed at iPhone, but the same steps can be applied to Android as well. Whichever smartphone you have, the built-in usage history tells you who was snooping. On iPhone, the evidence is captured in battery summary or screen time, while on Android, it’s captured in Digital Wellness.

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All three features track your phone usage throughout the day and report when which apps and services were used. These tools are usually useful when you’re trying to reduce screen time or limit the impact of your phone usage on battery life. However, they can also let you know if any activity is being recorded while you not using your phone.

Not that any activity means you’ve been compromised: apps sometimes run when you’re not using them, for both innocent and non-innocent reasons. Your email client may have background activity as it is looking for new messages even when the app is not open, while Facebook may be recording background activity as it is a data breach.

What you want to watch out for are specific activities that happen while you sleep or not through your phone that you know you haven’t done yourself. If you see “Messages” or “Gmail” was open for 20 minutes at 2 AM (no background activity, mind you), that’s a red flag. The same goes for any app on your phone that you know you weren’t using at the time.

For example, in the battery summary on my iPhone, I can tap the battery level graph to see which apps have been used at what time. Between 1am and 2am there were four apps running, all running in the background. In fact, it’s kind of interesting to see how much activity takes up Photos in the background at night — the app is hard at work, probably syncing with iCloud.

If I saw Photos active without however, the “background” tag allowed me to deduce that someone was looking through my photos in the middle of the night. Not cool.

Again, be careful when making accusations. If your partner really is spying on you while you sleep, that’s one big red flag. Of course, not all sneaky activities are malicious. Maybe your kid stole your phone for a midnight game Minecraft.

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