Google has reportedly pulled several ads for “stalkerware” apps that apparently allow users to spy on spouses’ phones.
The search giant already bans advertising apps designed to surveil spouses — which critics say violate privacy and enable domestic abuse — but five companies were still placing ads for stalkerware through Google last week, TechCrunch reported.
After the outlet asked Google for comment, the tech giant said it immediately banned the ads.
Stalkerware apps — which let customers secretly track other users’ locations, read their texts and monitor their calls, among other invasive features — occupy a gray area within Google’s advertising rules.
Google bans advertising apps used for “intimate partner surveillance” — but lets companies advertise so-called stalkerware apps if they are “designed for parents to track or monitor their underage children” or used for “private investigation services.”
Since private investigation services are sometimes used to catch cheating romantic partners, it’s unclear where Google draws the line when deciding whether to ban an ad.
In a statement to The Post, a Google spokesperson said: “We do not allow ads promoting spyware for partner surveillance. We immediately removed the ads that violated this policy and will continue to track emerging behaviors to prevent bad actors from trying to evade our detection systems.”
One stalkerware company called mSpy placed a Google advertisement promising to let customers spy on “your kids, husband or wife, grandma or grandpa,” according to TechCrunch.
Another app, called ClevGuard, promised to “dispel any doubts in a relationship,” the outlet reported.
A third company, called PhoneSpector, allegedly said its product would “catch a cheater.”
Stalkerware apps are more pervasive on Android devices but can also be installed on iPhones and iPads, experts say.