Google bans stalkerware apps from Android store. Which is cool but... why were they allowed in the first place?

Disclosed tracking, helicopter parenting programs are still kosher

In an update to its Android Developer Program Policy, Google on Wednesday said stalkerware apps in its app store can no longer be used to stalk non-consenting adults.

Stalkerware, which the web giant defines as "code that transmits personal information off the device without adequate notice or consent and doesn't display a persistent notification that this is happening," may still be used for keeping track of one's kids.

But starting October 1, 2020, the ad biz says it's no longer acceptable for Android apps in the Google Play Store to track another person, such as a spouse, without permission, unless there's a persistent visible notification that data is being transmitted.

The ban follows a similar prohibition in August on Google-served ads for "spyware and technology used for intimate partner surveillance," which reportedly hasn't worked very well.

In recent years, computer security experts have argued that the privacy and security risks in intimate relationships remain haven't been adequately anticipated or addressed.

But rules against invasive behavior aren't necessarily effective. Via Twitter, Michael Veale, a lecturer at University College London, observed that a 2018 research paper "found that 'abusers frequently exploit dual-use applications—tools whose main purpose is legitimate but that can be easily repurposed to function as spyware,' so banning explicit stalkerware of questionable efficacy."

Google will continue to allow non-stalkerware apps (i.e. policy compliant apps) to monitor and track people, provided the programs are not marketed as surveillance apps, they disclose any such functions, and they present the requisite persistent notification and icon.

Monitoring apps of the permissible sort continue to be subject to removal for violating applicable laws in the locations where they're published, and may not link to resources (e.g. servers, SDKs) that provide policy violating functions or non-compliant APKs hosted outside the Google Play Store.

Google's developer policy update also includes a ban on misrepresentation, both for apps and developer accounts. Apps or accounts that impersonate a person or organization, or attempt to conceal the app's purpose or ownership, or engage in coordinated misleading activity, are no longer allowed.

Online gambling apps have been disallowed too, except for in Brazil (with government approval), France, Ireland, and the UK. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Battlefield 2042: Please don't be the death knell of the franchise, please don't be the death knell of the franchise

    Another terrible launch, but DICE is already working on improvements

    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. Since the last edition on New World, we hit level cap and the "endgame". Around this time, item duping exploits became rife and every attempt Amazon Games made to fix it just broke something else. The post-level 60 "watermark" system for gear drops is also infuriating and tedious, but not something we were able to address in the column. So bear these things in mind if you were ever tempted. On that note, it's time to look at another newly released shit show – Battlefield 2042.

    I wanted to love Battlefield 2042, I really did. After the bum note of the first-person shooter (FPS) franchise's return to Second World War theatres with Battlefield V (2018), I stupidly assumed the next entry from EA-owned Swedish developer DICE would be a return to form. I was wrong.

    The multiplayer military FPS market is dominated by two forces: Activision's Call of Duty (COD) series and EA's Battlefield. Fans of each franchise are loyal to the point of zealotry with little crossover between player bases. Here's where I stand: COD jumped the shark with Modern Warfare 2 in 2009. It's flip-flopped from WW2 to present-day combat and back again, tried sci-fi, and even the Battle Royale trend with the free-to-play Call of Duty: Warzone (2020), which has been thoroughly ruined by hackers and developer inaction.

    Continue reading
  • American diplomats' iPhones reportedly compromised by NSO Group intrusion software

    Reuters claims nine State Department employees outside the US had their devices hacked

    The Apple iPhones of at least nine US State Department officials were compromised by an unidentified entity using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to a report published Friday by Reuters.

    NSO Group in an email to The Register said it has blocked an unnamed customers' access to its system upon receiving an inquiry about the incident but has yet to confirm whether its software was involved.

    "Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations," an NSO spokesperson told The Register in an email. "To this point, we haven’t received any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case."

    Continue reading
  • Utility biz Delta-Montrose Electric Association loses billing capability and two decades of records after cyber attack

    All together now - R, A, N, S, O...

    A US utility company based in Colorado was hit by a ransomware attack in November that wiped out two decades' worth of records and knocked out billing systems that won't be restored until next week at the earliest.

    The attack was detailed by the Delta-Montrose Electric Association (DMEA) in a post on its website explaining that current customers won't be penalised for being unable to pay their bills because of the incident.

    "We are a victim of a malicious cyber security attack. In the middle of an investigation, that is as far as I’m willing to go," DMEA chief exec Alyssa Clemsen Roberts told a public board meeting, as reported by a local paper.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021