Google announced a new policy Wednesday that will limit developers’ ability to put stalkerware apps on the Play store. The apps are typically used by someone who wants to monitor another person’s phone use, communications and web browsing history. The new policy forbids the apps if they don’t do enough to let phone users know they’ve been installed.
Many apps present themselves as child-monitoring apps, and Google’s new policy will allow the apps for this purpose. But the apps must meet several criteria to be allowed, including frequent notifications to the phone user when the app sends off data, as well as a visible icon that correctly identifies the app as a monitoring service.
“These apps cannot be used to track a person (a spouse, for example) without their knowledge or permission unless a persistent notification is displayed while the data is being transmitted,” the policy, which will go into effect Oct. 1, says.
Google didn’t allow stalkerware apps on the Play store previously, and the company has taken down many apps in the past that could let someone stalk a significant other, ex-partner or other adult. The apps, which areand stalking, . Software makers can sell them as long as they don’t market them as a tool for spying on adults. In a Harris poll commissioned by NortonLifeLock, one in ten US respondents said .
An FTC decision in 2019 required app makers to include a visible icon to let them users know the apps are installed on their phones, but made an exception for customers who are parents of minor children. Domestic violence advocates and malware experts have also called for any monitoring app to include persistent notifications and a visible icon.
Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on how the new policy advances their previous efforts to limit stalkerware that can spy on adults without their consent. The company has previouslyon its platforms for the software, which can be purchased outside of the Play store for Android phones.