Google bans ‘stalkerware’ from Play store

The ban excludes enterprise management tools and those used by parents to track the whereabouts of their children

Google has issued a ban on any software that allows an individual to track the whereabouts of other users without their consent, apps often referred to as 'stalkerware'.

As a part of new changes to its Developer Program Policy, Google said that Android apps intending to monitor other users’ behaviour will be obliged to present the tracked user with a persistent notification and unique icon that clearly identifies the app.

They will also be banned from advertising themselves as a "spying or secret surveillance solution” and will be unable to “hide or cloak tracking behavior or attempt to mislead users about such functionality”.

However, the ban, which comes into effect on 1 October, does not apply to apps used by parents to track the whereabouts of their children. Any software that allows companies to track employee devices, such as enterprise management apps, will also be excluded from the ban.

According to David Emms, principal security researcher at Kaspersky, apps which help monitor adults without their permission or knowledge “masquerade as parental control software and call themselves legal that way”.

“The whole category is tricky because we can’t label it as malware and report it as we would a backdoor trojan or similar, because in some jurisdictions it’s legal so it straddles a grey area,” Emms told IT Pro last month.

According to Kaspersky research, the period between January and August 2019 saw over 518,223 cases globally where the company’s protection technologies either registered presence of stalkerware on user devices or detected an attempt to install it – a 373% increase in the same period in 2018.

Apart from the formal ban of stalkerware apps, Google also announced that it would be making changes to its policy in order to tackle the issues of misrepresentation and gambling.

Effective from 21 October, developer accounts will not be allowed to mislead users by impersonating any person or organisation, as well as misrepresenting or concealing their ownership or primary purpose of the app.

Google will also restrict online gambling to the UK, Ireland, France, and Brazil.

For confidential advice, call the National Abuse Helpline on 0808 200 0247 or visit nationaldahelpline.org.uk

Featured Resources

The complete guide to changing your phone system provider

Optimise your phone system for better business results

Download now

Simplify cluster security at scale

Centralised secrets management across hybrid, multi-cloud environments

Download now

The endpoint as a key element of your security infrastructure

Threats to endpoints in a world of remote working

Download now

2021 state of IT asset management report

The role of IT asset management for maximising technology investments

Download now

Recommended

Bank-targeting malware disguises itself as video conferencing software
Security

Bank-targeting malware disguises itself as video conferencing software

19 Oct 2020
Your essential guide to internet security
Security

Your essential guide to internet security

23 Sep 2020
Best free malware removal tools 2020
Security

Best free malware removal tools 2020

21 Sep 2020
'NetWalker' ransomware explodes thanks to 'as a service' expansion
ransomware

'NetWalker' ransomware explodes thanks to 'as a service' expansion

4 Sep 2020

Most Popular

Do smart devices make us less intelligent?
artificial intelligence (AI)

Do smart devices make us less intelligent?

19 Oct 2020
Best MDM solutions 2020
mobile device management (MDM)

Best MDM solutions 2020

21 Oct 2020
Weekly threat roundup: Chrome, Citrix and WordPress
Security

Weekly threat roundup: Chrome, Citrix and WordPress

23 Oct 2020