Google corrects a “typo” in its “stalkerware” policy on the Play Store that currently suggests that apps can be used to track spouses. Stalkerware and other tracking software are dangerous, according to activists, as they can facilitate domestic abuse and partner harassment. As it is written, the policy also incorrectly states that parents cannot track their children.
The updated developer policy, which goes into effect October 1st, now specifically states that Play Store apps that parents can use to track their children are acceptable, but cannot be used to target adults (such as a spouse) without to pursue their knowledge or permission.
Here is the relevant section from the current developer guideline to be corrected (emphasis added):
Legitimate forms of these apps can not used by parents to keep track of their children. However, these apps are can Used to track a person (e.g. a spouse) without their knowledge or permission, unless a persistent notification is displayed while the data is being transferred.
Here is the same section in the new policy that goes into effect October 1
Acceptable forms of these apps can used by parents to keep track of their children. However, these apps are can not Used to track a person (e.g. a spouse) without their knowledge or permission, unless a persistent notification is displayed while the data is being transferred.
Aside from a few other minor wording changes, the rest of the Stalkerware Policy appears to be more or less unchanged from August. According to Google’s rules, apps cannot mislead users about their tracking functions. Apps must “present users with a permanent notification and a unique icon that uniquely identifies the app,” and they must not hide tracking behavior. They must also be explicitly designed and marketed as apps for monitoring parents or for company administration and not as “espionage or secret surveillance solutions”. Google has confirmed this The edge that this permanent tracking notification must be displayed, even if an app is designed in such a way that parents can track their children.
The rules clarification from Google is taking place as part of a more comprehensive campaign to combat stalkerware. These apps are often marketed as a way for jealous or suspicious partners to keep tabs on others, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and are intended to trick users into believing they are not being monitored. The Coalition Against Stalkerware, which the EFF helped found last year, says such surveillance can promote “gender-based and domestic violence, harassment and sexual abuse.”
Back in July, Google announced a ban on advertising spyware or surveillance technology with a new advertising policy that went into effect on August 11th TechCrunch Report subsequently found ads for these apps after the ban went into effect.
In addition to yesterday’s typo fix, Google also updated its misrepresentation and gambling apps guidelines. It was clarified that “coordinated activities that misrepresent or hide the origin of an app or content” are a violation of their policies and that a government-published gambling app is now legal in Brazil. These guidelines will come into effect on October 21st.