Software Firm tells Parents to Spy on 'Gay' Sons

John Lister's picture

A company selling spy software encouraged parents to use its tools to discover if their son was gay. It's now removed the article in question.

Fireworld offers software that tracks use of a computer. It's designed to be installed by anyone with physical access to the computer, who then wants to track what somebody else is doing with it.

The software treads a thin line under French law, which makes it illegal to install spyware (software that spies) on somebody else's computer. Fireworld warns customers to make sure they are acting legally, and there's at least an argument that it's legitimate to use as an employer or a parent who can claim legal ownership of a computer used by an employee or child.

Software Aimed at Parents and Spouses

To promote the software, Fireworld has a series of pages on its site that detail specific circumstances in which the software might be used. Examples include employers checking that staff aren't breaching company policies, parents making sure children aren't acting dangerously online, and spouses looking for signs of infidelity.

The page that's raised controversy deals with parents worried their son might be gay, something the company explained could be relevant. "The sexual orientation of your children, directly responsible for the continuation of your family, is very important to you." It went on to list a range of supposed clues to a son being gay, such as being interested in theatre, liking female singers and having piercings. (Source:

Article Dubbed Homophobic

The piece then suggested using the software to check the son's Facebook use and private messages, as well as searching to see if he had visited "gay forums."

A group supporting young French people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender highlighted the article and called it homophobic.

Fireworld has now removed the page. It told both the group and reporters that the page had not been designed to be read by humans and instead was designed solely to make the site appear higher in search rankings, presumably for searches from parents concerned about their child's sexuality. It has apologized to anyone upset by the content. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Is it appropriate to use this topic as a way to promote spy software? Should it be legal to sell such software in the first place? Do you buy the argument that humans weren't meant to read the article, and does that matter?

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Dennis Faas's picture

If they did not want people to read their anti-gay article then they should have not posted it online - plain and simple. To use the excuse that "it wasn't meant to be read by humans" its absolute rubbish. That is not how search engines work. If you post something public, search engines will crawl the site, then index the information. Users then search for specific search terms and if your article comes up in the search rankings, users click the link and then read the article.

spiras's picture

Interesting article.

My conspiracy theory is that they deliberately created the anti-gay page, knowing that it would generate interest in some circles and cause an uproar in other ones. The end result would be colossal free advertising. Ingenious.

Dennis Faas's picture

I am sure this is an afterthought, but you are 100% correct.

Rusty's picture

How could parents finding out their son is gay help them with any concerns they have about his carrying on the family name? The son, after all, would be gay regardless of their knowledge of it. The very strong implication is that intervention could somehow correct the undesired condition of the son's homosexuality. While that prospect may appeal to the emotions of certain concerned parents, it is of course ridiculous. It is clear as a bell to me that what is reported that this firm published to promote its product is unethical...and yes, homophobic.