Google bans ads promoting spyware apps that allow you to monitor your partner

Google bans ads promoting spyware apps that allow you to monitor your partner

Google has now blocked some advertisements going against its policies by promoting apps that stalked your spouse, reports TechCrunch. These apps are the so-called “stalkerware” or “spouseware” apps that had experienced recently a growth in popularity.

Advertising spyware apps that spy on your spouse is against Google’s guidelines

These ads have been pulled from users’ search results. These apps are usually consumer-grade spyware apps that are being marketed to parents as something you can use to track what your kid does online or on their phone, allowing you to monitor the calls, messages, apps, photos, location, and other important stuff. Usually, it is advertised as protection against online predators.

However, these apps have been repurposed to be used as a way to spy on your spouse, for example, to catch if they were cheating on you. This, of course, sparked an industry-wide response against apps that allowed the monitoring of another person’s phone. Antivirus companies have created ways to better detect the so-called stalkerware, while federal authorities have taken action against spyware makers. For example, the FTC recently banned SpyFone which was one such app that even harvested the mobile data it gathered to sell on the internet.

Google has also been banning ads about these apps that promoted monitoring of another person’s phone without their authorization.

Sometimes, apps go under the radar, and ads for them do as well, and some ads like this can be seen as recently as last week. However, a Google spokesperson stated that these types of ads are not allowed, and they are immediately removed once noticed. At the same time, Google said it will continue to track behaviors to prevent bad actors from trying to evade its detection systems.

More specifically, Google’s policy against enabling dishonest behavior bans ads that promote apps that allow for surveillance of your partner, but this system does not extend to ads that promote tracking a child’s activity or monitoring your employees’ devices. Additionally, this policy does not extend to private investigation services. However, Google has not stated how it determines for what purpose an app is being used.

At the same time, some supporters of Google’s efforts against stalkerware have raised concerns about the enforcement of the policy. For example, cybersecurity firm Malwarebytes, which is also a founding member of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, said that Google’s policy was “incomplete” and allowed stalkerware makers to disguise their app without changing the core technology that it had used.

Recently, Google stated it will suspend accounts of users or advertisers that continuously violated its policies. These advertisers will be getting up to three strikes after which, if they fail to stop promoting things against Google’s policy, a suspension of the account will follow.

Spyware: people are getting more aware of apps and services that are used for surveillance

In recent months, phone users have been becoming more aware of apps that infringed their privacy rights. For example, one such case that we recently reported on was a serious privacy breach that was dubbed the “Pegasus hack” that you might have heard about. This spyware could monitor almost anything you did on your phone, and such apps can be used to even attack democracy. We have reported that the Pegasus software was used to track the phones of 37 journalists and human rights activists, and their phones had been either attempted to or successfully hacked by an Israeli surveillance firm.

Since then, Apple (the iPhone had a zero-day vulnerability that allowed for the spyware to be installed) has released a software update that prevents it. That being said, smaller consumer-grade apps like the ones we mentioned earlier could as well monitor people, and that’s why such actions as banning ads for them are necessary.

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