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Google recently removed several apps from the Google Play Store after discovering they violated the Play Store terms of service — and, more importantly, could be used as stalkerware. That doesn’t mean they’re deleted from your Android device, though, so now’s a great time to remove them.
If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, “stalkerware” involves giving a third party access to another user’s device, location data, and other sensitive information. These apps often present themselves as “normal” tracking tools — for employee activity on company phones or your children’s whereabouts (a moral grey area to begin with), but they can also be used to spy on romantic partners, friends or roommates.
These apps run afoul of Google’s policies for apps distributed via Google Play: “Surveillance and Commercial Spyware apps are explicitly prohibited on Google Play. Only policy compliant apps exclusively designed and marketed for parental (including family) monitoring or enterprise management may distribute on the Store with tracking and reporting features, provided they fully comply with the requirements described below.”
As part of these requirements, tracking apps must clearly show that they’re active and cannot mislead users about their purpose. In other words, apps that try to hide on a user’s device and send their location data to someone else are a no-go. Security company Avast was responsible for highlighting these seven stalkerware apps to Google, which you should remove from your Android device if you see them:
- Employee Work Spy
- Mobile Tracking
- Phone Cell Tracker
- SMS Tracker
- Spy Kids Tracker
- Spy Tracker
- Track Employees Check Work Phone Online Spy Free
If you don’t see them, but suspect your movements are being tracked in some fashion, consider performing a factory reset on your device. You’ll have to reinstall your apps — and you’ll want to back up critical data like your photos and videos before you kick off the reset — but it’s the best and easiest way to ensure that hidden apps aren’t tracking your whereabouts.
Once you have your new device set up, make sure you’re using a stronger unlocking method so someone can’t get back in and reinstall any tracking tools.