One of the common complaints against Google Play is the store's willingness to allow apps with malicious intent to be listed for sale. While some apps steal data directly, such as a solitaire game accessing and uploading your contact list, others are even more covert in their theft. One class of apps, called stalkerware, has been a consistent pain in the neck of Android users. These apps have operated in the daylight, right under Google's nose, but not any longer, as Google has officially banned these apps - mostly.
Stalkerware apps are a category of app that goes beyond your usual data theft and, instead, monitor your full usage of your device. A lot of these apps are also referred to as spouseware because they allow a family member to watch your activity. It is common for these apps to be used to spy on a spouse that is believed to be cheating. The other user can use it to read through text messages, emails, or even monitor keystrokes in extreme circumstances.
The new ban on these apps, which should have been in place since the beginning, is a welcome addition to the Google Play Store policies. Existing apps will be removed from the Store, and new ones will no longer be allowed to be added. That is unless the app can justify its existence.
Some stalkerware apps are legitimate. For example, both parental safety apps, as well as enterprise management products will be allowed on the platform. Both of these products serve an important service for those who are in charge of devices and will be allowed to remain. The issue, of course, will be that apps designed for more nefarious purposes could mask themselves as parental monitoring products. This would allow for a bypass of the new policy, keeping some of these apps in the store. However, the end result will at least be a less obvious set of listings, maintaining the privacy of Android users.