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Can developer options and Bug Reports be used to spy on a person's phone use? For example by a spouse or parent?

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  • No, they can't be used for tracking – beeshyams Jun 25 '17 at 5:07
  • If you have a specific concern, you should ask a more specific question. Vague questions only lead to vague answers. – Dan Hulme Jun 27 '17 at 14:58
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Developer options and Bug Reports are tools that an android developer can use to test and debug ther app and get access to system logs and some other functions.

Here is a link to the Android documentation on development options: https://developer.android.com/studio/debug/dev-options.html

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The only option in this menu that has any privacy implications at all is USB debugging. It can't be used to track the phone remotely, but USB debugging allows a PC closer access to the phone when they're connected by USB (or on the same Wi-Fi network, if that is also enabled). In recent Android versions, each PC that wants to access the phone needs to be approved separately via a dialog on the phone.

If you do turn on USB debugging, and give a PC permission to access the phone, it can access the recent log data created by the system and by applications. Exactly what information is in the log, and how long it goes back, varies from phone to phone and from app to app. Some phones have a large enough log buffer for a few days' data, but don't store much in it; others might store more data in it but only for a few hours before old entries get overwritten. Some banking apps have been caught putting bank account numbers and/or passwords in this log, which is definitely a bug in the app; some apps don't put any data at all there. Data in the log might include:

  • The MAC addresses of Bluetooth devices that the phone scanned or connected to
  • The SSIDs of Wi-Fi networks that the phone connected to
  • Which apps are installed, and when they're updated
  • In-app purchases from some apps
  • Geolocations where you used some location-related apps

USB debugging can also be used to install apps, but only while it's connected, and the Install apps from unknown sources setting (which isn't a developer option) needs to be on for this to work.

Finally, USB debugging can be used to retrieve some files from the phone to the PC. This might include photos or videos you've taken, music that's on the phone, or sound files you use as ringtones. It won't include private app data unless the phone is also rooted.

I just want to reiterate that just showing the Developer options screen doesn't turn on USB debugging, which is another setting inside this screen. Even if it's on, it's always possible to turn off USB debugging again, or to Revoke USB debugging authorizations so that each PC will prompt again (on the phone) before being allowed to connect.

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