Google’s newest ad ban is a classic “better late than never” situation.
In its latest advertising policy update, Google announced that “stalkerware” apps will not be able to advertise through Google anymore starting Aug. 11. In case you aren’t aware, that’s a particularly odious class of software that is largely associated with abusive partners who want to stalk the movements and activities of their significant others.
A non-exhaustive list of ads Google will not allow includes text, call, and GPS tracking apps, as well as anything generally advertised with the purpose of stalking someone without their consent. Interestingly, that doesn’t just include software, but hardware like cameras and audio recorders that are explicitly marketed as spying devices. Violators will have their accounts suspended with at least a seven-day warning ahead of time.
Google already doesn’t allow stalkerware apps on the Play Store, and occasionally removes batches of them after they slip through the cracks. One could understandably wonder why there wasn’t already an advertising policy against these sorts of apps, but regardless of the reason, there is one now.
In 2019, groups like the Electric Frontier Foundation and NortonLifeLock partnered up to form a Coalition Against Stalkerware. Its website has educational materials as well as safety resources for victims. A NortonLifeLock study released earlier in 2020 found that 46 percent of Americans admitted to cyber-stalking a partner or ex in some form, with men being more than twice as likely to use apps to do it than women.