As of August 11th 2020, Google will ban ads on most stalkerware apps. The announcement, which came on July 10th, stated that advertisements on spyware and surveillance technology.
Stalkerware is often used by, well, stalkers to spy on text messages, call logs, photos, videos, location, date, and anything that their target types onto their phone. Google’s ad ban means that these apps, which are already banned from the App Store and PlayStore, cannot promote ads that redirect users to a third-party website that supports them. Now, anyone promoting stalkerware will receive a seven-day warning, resulting in a ban if ignored.
Google hasn’t put a ban on all spyware apps: private investigation services or products designed for parents to track or monitor their underage children will be exempt under this new policy and will still be allowed to be advertised on its platform.
Unfortunately, there does appear to be a loophole in the policy. Due to this allowance of certain intelligence and spyware apps, more malicious platforms can advertise as offering one thing, without changing the technology within.
Stalkerware-like apps are an increasing problem. According to Slate, “A February poll from the software company NortonLifeLock found that one in 10 Americans have used stalkerware to keep tabs on their significant other or ex.”
There has also been an upsurge of usage of such apps in lockdown. Avast reported a 51 percent uptick in stalkerware usage between March and June.
While this new policy is a welcomed one, Google’s next step should be finding a way to eliminate this loophole – maybe by banning all and every stalkerware type software completely and indefinitely.