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Google limits ads for surveillance products

Illustration for article with the title Google targets stalkerware (and misses)

photo:: Tobias Schwarz (Getty Images)

When most of us think of companies paving an uncompromisingly ethical path into the future, We don’t think about Google. Even if the company does actually seem to give a shit about surveillance, steps to keep our private lives private could just as easily be construed as something it does for Market powerand not our personal wellbeing.

Case in point: after a current update According to the company’s ad policy, Google will enforce stricter regulations against tech players who want to promote what they call “spyware and surveillance technology”. In particular, the update is intended, as they put it, against “products or services that are marketed or used in a targeted manner to expressly track or monitor another person or their activities without their approval”.

People who continue to advertise these products will, according to the company, receive a fierce warning to post their ad in a week or risk their account being suspended.

Despite the fact that Google preaches how much it values ​​this type of consumer consent, Tech critic, Federal regulators and exactly this journalist All have advised the company to purposely bury the details of a consumer’s sign-up when, for example, they are using a Chrome browser or purchasing an Android device. In the past I literally found it for reference impossible As soon as you get your hands on one of the phones, turn off Google tracking – consensually or otherwise.

Unfortunately, it’s worth assuming that ads for Android are going nowhere. That is, Google did offer a so-called “non-exhaustive” list of some products that can no longer be advertised on their platform, including:

  • Spyware and partner monitoring technology including, but not limited to, spyware / malware that can be used to monitor text, phone calls, or browsing history
  • GPS trackers specifically marketed to spy on or track someone without their consent
  • Advertising for surveillance devices (cameras, audio recorders, dash cams, nanny cams) that are marketed for the express purpose of espionage

Shot. Okay, let’s start with that first point. For some unexplained reason, we recently saw an absolute boom in products that aim to catch those annoying “fraudulent friends”. In general, these products are little more than a nifty piece Malware This can be installed on a target’s computer or phone, allegedly giving that hacker near-unrestricted access to every call made, website browsed, or text sent by their allegedly unfaithful partner.

Yes, it sounds creepy and legally dubious – that’s because it is. And no, Google hasn’t had too much of a problem promoting these products so far. While I was working on this story, I hopped into the Google search engine to see what kind of ads came up when someone wanted to look up and said, “How to spy on my girlfriend’s phone.” The first two Results were for what is affectionately known as “stalkerware”.

Illustration for article with the title Google targets stalkerware (and misses)

Screenshot:: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo

When Google reached for a comment, it didn’t have much to say about why it helped advance this type of malicious malware. “We evaluate and update our ad guidelines constantly to ensure that we protect users,” wrote a Google spokesman to Gizmodo. “We have regularly updated our language with examples to clarify what we think is against guidelines. Partner monitoring spyware technology has always been part of our anti-dishonest conduct policy. ”

Not to be precise, but these types of ads have been and will be shown in Google search. But let’s say this was a hiccup, and the obviously crude displays will soon be gone. There was one more profound caveat that Google put into this announcement that appears to undermine the whole initiative:

This [ban] does not include (a) private investigation services or (b) any product or service that enables parents to track or monitor their minor children.

Hm, okay, so let’s replace “how to spy on my girlfriend’s phone” with “how to spy on my daughter’s phone”:

Illustration for article with the title Google targets stalkerware (and misses)

Screenshot:: Shoshana Wodinsky (Gizmodo

It sure looks like some of these companies – like WebWatcher in this case – are having an easy time renaming themselves to cater to stalkers in a less obvious way while selling essentially identical services. And there’s not much stopping jealous exes from getting their hands on the same materials under the guise of “worrying about their child.”

We had a second question was in Greetings to the ban on promoting all types of “surveillance equipment […] marketed for the express purpose of espionage. “What about the equipment? under the umbrella of surveillance but not marketed as such? Google has one whole wing of products that technically fit this bill – it is called nestthat you may know from his most recent Blockbuster deal with the home security program from ADT. Under the current ban, Google could hypothetically use “espionage”. as justification Stop ads for competing products that don’t show up in user search results – and display an ad for a Nest product in their place, despite the increasing number of cases in the news that this type of device is being used Stalk and Surveil unsuspecting partner.

Sure, this might be a far-fetched scenario, but not impossible when the game we’re all forced to play has unknown rules. For example, Google only told us how to determine which ads cross the boundaries of this new policy: “We can’t go into the details of our enforcement systems because bad actors often use this information to undermine our efforts to escape enforcement. We may communicate that we use a combination of signals on our network to identify malicious intent in advertising products and services. ”

Signals are used in combination. Naturally. It all makes sense now.

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