Google Play Store Bans Stalkerware Apps, Except "Spouseware" and Parental Control; Releases Updates on Developer Policies

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Google banned stalkerware apps from the Play Store starting Sept. 16, but gave developers 15 days to comply with the new policies.

Android's open system makes it an easy target for all kinds of malware operation. Some seeming apps that try to hide their malicious behavior even get past Google's reviewing apps for the Google Play Store. However, with the new policies, these types of software will no longer be allowed starting Oct. 1, except for some apps that require user approval. 

While stalkerware are not exactly malware or Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs), they still track the owner's use of a device, which are often without content from the user or even a simple notification. 

Google Play Store Bans Stalkerware Apps, Except “Spouseware” and Parental Control

(Photo : Chris Yang/Unsplash)
Google Play Store Bans Stalkerware Apps, Except “Spouseware” and Parental Control

Some apps even fall to categories like parental control and monitoring apps as well as "spouseware," which is their ability to spy on their allegedly cheating partners. According to Slashgear, parental monitoring and enterprise management apps are still available in Google Play Store, but under some rules that they require them that consistently notify that the user is being tracked or monitored.

Only apps that comply with the policy and are exclusively designed and marketed for parental or family monitoring, as well as enterprise management, may distribute on the Play Store with tracking and reporting features, but they must follow strict requirements as follow.

These apps must not be marketed as secret surveillance solution. Users must be presented with continuous notification with a unique icon that clearly identifies the app. They must not hide tracking feature or mislead users about such function. Google Play app listings must not provide any means to activate any functionality that violates the policies such as a link to non-compliant APK outside Google Play. Developers are solely responsible for determining the legality of the app. Google will remove apps that are found to be unlawful in areas where they are published.

Google has banned stalkerware apps from the Play Store

(Photo : Google Play Store )
Google has banned stalkerware apps from the Play Store

However, the exception to allow MDM and parental control apps to continue working could still pose a risk for exploitation as some developers might pose as such, but users still use them to spy on others. How effective Google's policies against such behavior still remain to be seen.

Read also: This Orange Dot on Your iPhone Means An App is Using Your Cam; Could Someone Be Using It?

Google' developer program policy updates

Aside from stalkerware, Google also updated its policies against misrepresentation and gambling apps, which will be effective on October 21 while developers will only have 15 days to take action or be removed from the program.

Misrepresentation

Google Play Store will not allow apps or developer accounts that imitate any person or organization or misrepresent their ownership or purpose.

Similarly, developers who engage in misleading users such as those concealing or misrepresenting their country of origin and those directing content at users in another country, will also be removed. Also, PlayStore will also ban apps and developers that coordinate with others to conceal or misrepresent their identity, particularly when app contents are related to public matters, social issues, or politics.

Google’ developer program policy updates

(Photo : Clifford Photography/Unsplash)
Google’ developer program policy updates

Gambling Apps

Gambling apps are only allowed in France, the UK, and Ireland, as well as limited apps published by Caixa Economica Federal for Brazil. Meanwhile, services and content that facilitate online gambling are not allowed in all other locations. These include sports betting, lotteries, online casinos, and games of skill, offering cash or other real-world value as prizes.

Gambling apps must successfully complete the application process order to distribute the app on Google Play. Developers must comply with all related laws and industry standards and have a valid gambling license for all specific countries where the apps will be distributed.

The app must be rated AO (Adult Only) or IARC equivalent and should be able to be highly restricted from minors. The app must be free to download and install from the Play Store and should not require in-app billing.

Developers still have 15 days to tweak their apps to comply with these policies. Otherwise, their apps will be banned from the store.

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Written by CJ Robles

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