Google To Ban Ads That Promote Spyware, Stalkerware

Google says it will no longer allow ads for products or services marketed for tracking or monitoring another person without their authorization.

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“The updated policy will prohibit 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,” Google said in the update.

The rule will apply to spyware and technology that is used for tracking intimate partners, monitors texts, calls or browsing history. It also applies to GPS trackers that allow users to spy on people without their knowledge and surveillance tools like audio recorders, cameras, etc.

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Stalkerware refers to spyware apps specifically designed for couples that abusive partners install on the devices of their loved ones without their knowledge or consent — hence why stalkerware is also sometimes referred to as spouseware.

Google said private investigation services and products and services for parents to track or monitor their underage children will not apply. The “Enabling Dishonest Behavior” policy update will be enforced beginning Aug. 11.

According to statistics gathered by antivirus vendor Kaspersky, the number of users who had stalkerware-like apps installed on their Android devices rose from 40,386 devices detected in 2018 to more than 67,500 in 2019.

According to Google, the company’s ads policies already prohibit the promotion of products and services that let a user gain unauthorized access to systems, devices or property, but this update changes the policy language to include promoting spyware and surveillance technology targeting unauthorized access of intimate partners’ devices, Google said.

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