Several companies using phone-spying apps– referred to as “stalkerware”– are still promoting in Google search engine result, despite the search giant’s ban that took result today, TechCrunch has discovered.
These controversial apps are typically pitched to assist parents snoop on their kid’s calls, messages, apps and other private information under the guise of helping to safeguard against online predators.
But some repurpose these apps to spy on their spouses– often without their consent.
It’s an issue that the broader tech market has actually worked to tackle. Security companies and antivirus makers are working to combat the rise of stalkerware, and federal authorities have taken action when app makers have actually breached the law.
Among the biggest actions to date came last month when Google revealed an updated advertisements policy, efficiently banning companies from marketing phone-snooping apps “with the express purpose of tracking or keeping an eye on another individual or their activities without their permission.”
Google provided these companies up until August 11 to remove these ads.
But TechCrunch discovered seven business known to provide stalkerware– including FlexiSpy, mSpy, WebWatcher and KidsGuard– were still marketing in Google search engine result after the restriction took impact.
Google did not say explicitly state if the stalkerware apps broke its policy, but told TechCrunch that it eliminated advertisements for WebWatcher. Regardless of the due date, Google said that enforcement is not constantly instant.
” We recently updated our policies to restrict advertisements promoting spyware for partner surveillance while still enabling advertisements for technology that helps moms and dads monitor their underage kids,” stated a Google spokesperson. “To avoid sly stars who attempt to disguise the product’s intent and avert our enforcement, we take a look at numerous signals like the ad text, innovative and landing page, to name a few, for policy compliance. When we discover that an advertisement or advertiser is breaching our policies, we take instant action.”
The policy is seemingly far from best. Google faced immediate criticism for carving out exceptions to its new policy for “product and services created for parents to track or monitor their underage children.”
Malwarebytes, among a number of antivirus makers that vowed to assist fight stalkerware, called the policy “insufficient,” in large part since the “the line between stalkerware-type applications and parental monitoring applications can be blurred.”
In this case, numerous of the stalkerware apps clearly specify how their apps could be utilized to spy on spouses.
For example, mSpy’s site stated the app can be used to spy on “your kids, partner, or associates.” KidsGuard, which had a massive security lapse last year that exposed countless surveilled users, clearly states on its homepage that its app can “catch a cheating spouse.” 2 other app makers, Spyic and PhoneSpector, still have dozens of article on their site clearly referencing spying on spouses.
In 2015 the Electronic Frontier Structure established the Union Versus Stalkerware, a group of academics, companies and nonprofits to help identify, fight and raise awareness of stalkerware.
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