It is one thing to share your phone activities with family and friends voluntarily. However, some app builders have been encouraging far more sinister uses. Google has pulled multiple folks-tracking Android apps from the Play store after Avast found that they’re primarily meant to enable stalking. As soon as the would-be spy has physical access to the goal’s phone, they install a monitoring app that collects delicate particulars like location, text messages, and call history. They even assist snoops in hiding proof of the apps you will not discover icons or other telltale clues. After that, the stalker can watch their victim through a desktop.
The apps have been frequently pitched as an employee and parental monitoring instruments. However, we discovered that some individuals weren’t utilizing the app that way. Reviews for Spy Tracker, for instance, included numerous individuals utilizing the app to stalk romantic companions. The shoppers have been mildly popular; they had 130,000 total downloads.
When requested for comment, Google confirmed to Engadget that it pulled the apps. The corporate already has policies forbidding these apps and has taken some steps to fight partner abuse, such as donating resources to anti-domestic violence charities like Refuge and dealing with privateness and safety researchers. It additionally printed a examine in 2017 to guide privacy and security practices when dealing with abusers.
The app report is a not-so-refined plug for Avast’s stalking app detection instruments. However, it additionally illustrates the challenges Google faces in keeping these sorts of apps out of its catalog. These apps can clear the Play Store’s automated app screening, although they’re designed with malicious intent, and they might not be reported until after they’ve had an opportunity to do some damage.