‘Stalkerware’ phone spying apps have escaped Google’s ad ban – ClearTips
Many companies offering phone-spying apps – known as “stalkerware” – still have advertisements in Google’s search results today, despite the search giant’s ban, ClearTips has found.
These controversial apps are often pivoted to help parents on their child’s calls, messages, apps and other personal data under the guise of helping protect them from online predators.
But some people use these apps to spy on their spouse – often without their permission.
This is a problem that the wider tech industry has worked to tackle. Security firms and antivirus manufacturers are working to deal with the rise of stackerware, and federal authorities have taken action when app makers have violated the law.
One of the biggest actions came last month when Google announced an updated advertising policy, effectively banning companies from advertising phone-snooping apps to “track another person or their authority without their authorization” For the purpose of tracking activities. “
Google gave these companies until August 11 to remove these ads.
But ClearTips went on to provide stockware to seven companies – including FlexSpy, mSpy, Webwatcher and KidsGuard – that were still advertising in Google search results after the ban went into effect.
Google did not explicitly say if the Stockerware apps violated its policy, but told ClearTips that it had removed ads for WebWatcher. Despite the deadline, Google said enforcement is not always immediate.
A Google spokesperson said, “We recently updated our policies to prohibit advertisements promoting spyware for partner monitoring, which allows parents to monitor their youngest children Helps. ” “To prevent fraudulent actors who try to hide the intent of the product and erase our enforcement, we look at a number of signs such as ad text, creative and landing pages for policy compliance. When we find that an advertisement or advertiser is violating our policies, we take immediate action. “
The policy is clearly far from perfect. Google faced immediate criticism for excluding exceptions to its new policy for “products or services designed for parents to track or monitor young children”.
Malwarebytes, one of several antivirus manufacturers that promised to help fight stellarware, called the policy “incomplete” because “the line between starkware-type applications and parental monitoring applications can be blurred.” “
In this case, many stockwareware apps clearly state how their app can be used to spy on a spouse.
For example, mSpy’s website said that the app could be used to spy on “their children, wife or co-workers”. Kidsguard, which had a massive security lapse last year that exposed thousands of surveyed users, states clearly on its homepage that its app “could catch a cheating husband.” Two other app makers, SpySic and PhoneSpector, are still spying dozens of blog posts on their website, apparently spouses.
Last year the Electronic Frontier Foundation set up a coalition against a group of academics, companies and nonprofits to help find, combat, and raise awareness about stockware.
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