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Google pulls ads for "stalkerware" apps from Play Store

Kaspersky Report on Stalkerware
(Image credit: Kaspersky)

Google has reportedly pulled down several adverts that promoted stalkerware apps that could also be used to surreptitiously spy on victim's phones.

Google banned ads that promoted apps that are designed “with the express purpose of tracking or monitoring another person or their activities without their authorization," in August 2020, however, TechCrunch found five app makers who were still advertising stalkerware apps.

“We do not allow ads promoting spyware for partner surveillance. We immediately removed the ads that violated this policy and will continue to track emerging behaviors to prevent bad actors from trying to evade our detection systems,” a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch.

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Misleading adverts

The spyware apps reportedly got around Google’s filtering mechanism by marketing themselves to parents who wish to monitor the phone usage of their kids, under the garb of protecting them from predators. 

However, many of these apps can be installed on the device of any user surreptitiously without soliciting their consent. No surprise then that they are often misused to spy on spouses earning them the moniker spouseware.

TechCrunch says the ads they helped take down, in pretty much the same vein as the apps themselves, took advantage of the fact that while Google’s policy bans ads from promoting partner surveillance, it does not extend to ads that promote tracking a child’s activity or workplaces monitoring their employees’ devices.

However, while the ads have been pulled, it appears the apps continue to exist, since they presumably weren’t listed on the Play Store in the first place.

Via TechCrunch

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.