Google bans ads for products and services that secretly track or monitor people

Google says it will no longer allow ads for products or services marketed for tracking or monitoring another person without their authorization.

In an ad policy update, Google said this will apply to spyware and technology used for intimate partner surveillance, including tech used to monitor texts, phone calls or browsing history. It also applies to GPS trackers marketed to spy on someone without their consent, along with surveillance equipment such as cameras, audio recorders, dash cams and nanny cams marketed for the purpose of spying.

Google said private investigation services and products and services for parents to track or monitor their underage children will not apply. The “Enabling Dishonest Behavior” policy update will be enforced beginning Aug. 11.

In 2018, a group of researchers conducting a study on the ecosystem of intimate partner surveillance spyware found thousands of Google ads appeared for search terms that showed explicit intention of conducting surveillance.

The ads discovered included: “How to catch a cheating spouse with his cell phone” and “Track My Wife’s Phone — Want to Spy on your Wife? Track your Wife without her knowing. Discover Who Are They messaging. Download! 24-Hour Support Price Superiority No Jailbreaking and App Results Guaranteed.”

The researchers said in the study that Google had started to restrict ads for those types of search terms. Ads were not being shown on explicit search terms for intimate partner surveillance at the time the study was published.

“We constantly evaluate and update our ad policies to ensure we are protecting users,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We routinely update our language with examples to help clarify what we consider policy violating. Spyware technology for partner surveillance was always in scope of our policies against dishonest behavior.”

According to Google, the company’s ads policies already prohibit the promotion of products and services that let a user gain unauthorized access to systems, devices or property, but this update changes the policy language to include promoting spyware and surveillance technology targeting unauthorized access of intimate partners’ devices, Google said.