Google removes several stalkerware ads promoting spying on spouses

In a bid to minimise the spread of stalkerware (used by abusers to spy on the phones of their spouses), Google has once again purged several “stalkerware” ads from its Play Store, promoting apps that violated its policies.

Stalkerware apps are generally disguised under a fake app name with suspicious access to messages, call logs, location and other personal activity.

Once downloaded, these apps been repurposed by people to spy on the smartphones of their spouses.

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

The report found that several stalkerware apps used a variety of techniques to successfully evade Google’s ban on such apps.

Google in October last year updated its Play Store policies to impose a ban on stalkerware apps.

Google said that such apps that transmit personal information off the device without adequate notice or consent and do not display a persistent notification that this is happening will be banned from its Play Store.

“In short, it’s spyware beloved by creeps, jealous ex-partners, and those who have no qualms about invading someone’s privacy in the hope of tracking what they’re up to and with whom,” security writer Graham Cluley had said in a blog post.

However, Google allowed apps that can be used by parents to track their children.

A recent report by cyber security firm Kaspersky claimed that as some people try to digitally control the lives of their intimate partners, nearly 4,627 mobile users in India were found to be the victim of stalkerware.

In 2020, a total of 53,870 mobile users were affected globally by stalkerware. In 2019, Kaspersky discovered 67,500 affected mobile users.

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