Starting August 11th, Google is banning advertisements for “stalkerware” apps and hardware, which enable someone to track the phone activity or movement of another person. These apps and hardware tend to be used for “intimate partner surveillance,” according to an update on Google’s advertising policies change log. The apps are already banned in Google and Apple’s app stores, however some still slip through while others are available directly on developers’ websites.
The update further specifies that affected products include, “spyware/malware that can be used to monitor texts, phone calls, or browsing history; GPS trackers specifically marketed to spy or track someone without their consent; promotion of surveillance equipment (cameras, audio recorders, dash cams, nanny cams) marketed with the express purpose of spying." Accounts that violate the policy will be suspended, according to the update.
The change comes as domestic violence cases are on the rise not just in the US, but worldwide, according to an April report from The New York Times. Many abuse victims have been quarantined with their abusers, and lockdown orders make it difficult for them to escape.
Hopefully Google’s ban helps remove another potential abuse tool from those who wish to do harm. While a ban on advertising is a good business policy, Google could also do a better job ensuring the apps don’t make it to the store in the first place.
If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation, The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers 24/7 support at its website, 1-800-799-7233 and 1-800-787-3224.