Google is correcting a “typo” in its Play Store “stalkerware” policy that currently suggests that apps can be used to track spouses. Stalkerware and other tracking software are dangerous, activists say, because they can facilitate domestic abuse and partner harassment. As it is written, the policy also incorrectly states that parents cannot trace their children.
The updated developer policy, which takes effect October 1, now explicitly states that Play Store apps that allow parents to monitor their children are acceptable but cannot be used to monitor adults (such as a spouse ) without their knowledge or authorization.
Here is the relevant section of the current developer policy that needs to be corrected (emphasis added):
Legitimate forms of these apps He can not be used by parents to track down their children. However, these apps can he be used to trace a person (a spouse, for example) without his knowledge or authorization unless a persistent notification is displayed during data transmission.
Here is the same section of the new policy, which will go into effect on October 1
Acceptable forms of these apps can he be used by parents to track down their children. However, these apps He can not be used to trace a person (a spouse, for example) without his knowledge or authorization unless a persistent notification is displayed during data transmission.
Aside from a couple of other minor wording changes, the rest of Stalkerware’s policy appears to be more or less unchanged since August. Google’s rules state that apps can’t mislead users about their tracking functionality. Apps must “present users with a persistent notification and a unique icon that clearly identifies the app” and cannot hide the tracking behavior. They also need to be explicitly designed and marketed as a parental monitoring or business management app, rather than a “covert spying or surveillance solution”. Google confirmed a The Verge that this persistent monitoring notification should appear, even when an app is designed to allow parents to monitor their children.
Google’s rule clarification comes in the midst of a broader campaign to crack down on stalkerware. These apps are often marketed as a way for jealous or suspicious partners to keep tabs on another and are designed to trick users into believing they are not being monitored, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The Coalition Against Stalkerware, which the EFF helped found last year, says surveillance like this can facilitate “domestic and gender-based violence, harassment and sexual abuse.”
In July, Google announced a ban on advertising spyware or surveillance technology with a new ad policy that went into effect on August 11, although a TechCrunch report later found ads for these apps after the ban went into effect.
In addition to yesterday’s typo correction, Google also updated its policies on misrepresentation and remote gaming apps. He clarified that “coordinated activity that misrepresents or hides the origin of an app or content” is a violation of its policies and that a government-published gambling app is now allowed in Brazil. These policies will take effect on 21 October.