So called “stalkerware” has become more mainstream in recent years, most commonly for use on partners or spouses devices. There are tens of thousands of ads now on Google for monitoring and stalking others without consent.
However, Google just announced that it will no longer allow these ads to be shown, and that any products or services used to track people in secret will be banned.
What is stalkerware?
In 2018, researchers found that many companies were promoting software designed to monitor someone without their knowledge.
The ads include things like: “How to catch a cheating spouse with his cell phone”, and “Track My Wife’s Phone — Want to Spy on your Wife? Track your Wife without her knowing. Discover Who Are They messaging. Download! 24-Hour Support Price Superiority No Jailbreaking and App Results Guaranteed.”
During the lockdown, use of this type of software has increased by 51% compared to earlier months. In the UK, Japan, Germany, and other countries, usage in April was double that of January.
What does Google say?
Google has updated its policies to no longer allow “the promotion of products or services that are marketed or targeted with the express purpose of tracking or monitoring another person or their activities without their authorization.”
This will be effective from 11th August globally. It doesn’t include apps designed for parents to monitor their children. Also, it won’t include private investigation services.
Google said it plans to remove loopholes in its rules that allow spyware and surveillance tools to be advertised freely. This is in line with its existing ad policies that block ads designed to give unauthorized access to other people’s devices or property.
“Stalkerware is unethical software that allows people to track someone’s location, access their personal photos and videos, intercept emails, texts and app communications such as WhatsApp and Facebook, as well as eavesdrop on phone calls and make covert recordings of conversations over the internet, without the target’s knowledge or consent.”
“We constantly evaluate and update our ad policies to ensure we are protecting users. We routinely update our language with examples to help clarify what we consider policy violating. Spyware technology for partner surveillance was always in scope of our policies against dishonest behavior.”