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Google Stalkerware policy requires notifications about app monitoring

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Google announced a new policy on Wednesday to limit stalkerware apps on the Play Store.

Angela Lang / CNET

On Wednesday, Google announced a new policy that limits the ability of developers to put stalkerware apps in the Play Store. Apps are typically used by people who want to monitor other people’s phone usage, communications, and web browsing history. The new policy prohibits apps if they are not enough to inform phone users that the app has been installed.

Many apps appear as apps that monitor children. Google’s new policy allows apps for this purpose. However, your app must meet some authorization criteria, including frequent notifications to phone users when your app sends data, and a visible icon that correctly identifies your app as a monitoring service.

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“These apps can’t be used to track people (such as spouses) without their knowledge and permission unless they see a persistent notification while the data is being sent,” said October 1. The policy to be enforced states.

Google has not previously allowed stalkerware apps on the Play Store. We’ve also removed a number of apps to allow users to secretly track their phone activity. However, a previous policy update that took effect on August 12 prohibits users from using the app to track children, but uses them to track adults without consent or knowledge. Seems to be misrepresented as being allowed. It’s the opposite of the policy announced on Wednesday.

Apps related to domestic violence and stalking are in the legal gray area. Software makers can sell it unless they sell it as a tool for spying on adults. In a Harris poll commissioned by NortonLifeLock, one in ten respondents in the United States said they used stalking wear on their partner or original device.

The 2019 FTC decision required app makers to include a display icon to let users know that the app is installed on their smartphones, with an exception for customers who are parents of minor children. I did. Advocates of domestic violence and malware experts are also demanding that surveillance apps include permanent notifications and visible icons.

Google asked for comment on the wording of the previous policy, but didn’t respond immediately. So far, the company has cracked down on advertising on software platforms. The software can be purchased outside the Play Store on Android phones.

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