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The Google Play Store prohibits stalkerware Android apps

Because of its more open ecosystem, Android is notorious for running rampantly all types of malware. Some of them even passed Google’s exam for reviewing apps for the Google Play Store. These are covertly trying to hide their less than innocent behavior, but it appears that a certain class of software has worked under Google’s nose outdoors. However, as of today, stalkerware apps are banned from the Google Play Store, except where permitted.

Stalkerware is the term used for apps that are not necessarily potentially harmful apps (PHAs) or malware, but still track the usage of a device by the owner, often with no content or even no simple notification. This class of apps is also known as “spouseware” because of their ability to (supposedly) spy on fraudulent partners and may even include apps for parental controls and monitoring.

For this reason, Google made an exception when it announced a new policy to ban stalkerware apps from October 1

of this year. Apps designed for parental monitoring and business administration can still be distributed on the Google Play Store. However, all of these apps have to follow some rules. For example, you need to provide a permanent notification that the user is being tracked or monitored.

A necessary exception for parental controls and MDM apps to continue to work might still be a loophole that less conscientious agents are only too happy to exploit. It can’t take much for an app to present itself as such and still be used to spy on other users. Of course, Google has other guidelines against such behavior, but it remains to be seen how effective these new rules will be.

There are also updated anti-misrepresentation guidelines, as well as gambling apps, the latter of which are limited to just a handful of countries. The latter two guidelines come into effect on October 21, and affected developers only have 15 days to take action or to be excluded.

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