Google Going To Ban Ads For Computer Security

Google will update its Google Ads Enabling Dishonest Behavior policy to globally ban advertising for spyware and surveillance


Stalkerware tech allows third-parties to monitor one’s mobile device without the user’s knowledge, as well as to collect sensitive user information related to the user’s location and online activity later to be used for blackmail or various other malicious purposes.

Specifically targeting intimate partner surveillance tech

“In August 2020, the Google Ads Enabling Dishonest Behavior policy will be updated to clarify restrictions on advertising for spyware and surveillance technology,” Google explains in an update on its ads policy help site.

“The updated policy will prohibit the promotion of products or services that are marketed or targeted with the express purpose of tracking or monitoring another person or their activities without their authorization.”

The company says that it specifically targets ads promoting spyware tech used for intimate partner or spouse surveillance including but not limited to

Exceptions to the rule

According to Google, there are also exceptions included in the updated advertising policy such as private investigation services ads and advertising of services and products that parents can use to monitor or track their underage children.

“Violations of this policy will not lead to immediate account suspension without prior warning,” Google says. “A warning will be issued, at least 7 days, prior to any suspension of your account.”

Google Ads customers are advised to review the policy updates to make sure that their ads don’t fall within the scope of the newly updated policy.

If that is the case, Google recommends removing any conflicting ads before it starts enforcing the policy update on August 11.

What is stalkerware?

Stalkerware tools can lead to “gender-based and domestic violence, harassment and sexual abuse,” according to the Coalition Against Stalkerware.

The simplest to use stalkerware (also known as spouseware) are mobile apps installed on tens of thousands of devices each year.

Retina-X apps (MobileSpy, PhoneSheriff, and TeenShield) are a well-known example of such apps that are no longer sold after their cloud storage got hacked and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) barred the developer from selling them unless they were used for legitimate purposes.

A more recent example of such a tracker app that can be used for stalking is MonitorMinor, an Android app that’s almost impossible to detect once deployed on a target’s device.

A Kaspersky report from October 2019 says that its security solutions detected over 500,000 samples of stalkerware or attempts to install on Android devices alone.

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