Google Ads to Prohibit Spyware, Surveillance Products and Services

Spyware!?

Google is constantly updating their online policies in order to maintain ethical and lawful practices. As digital marketers, it is important we keep up with the changes made to advertising policies in order to make sure our client’s businesses and ad revenue are protected.

That said, All Digital Marketers should be aware of a change to editorial policy to all campaigns running off the Google Ads platform by Google. This ban specifically targets the banning promotion of software and hardware with the intention of stalking and spying on people and comes into force on August 11th, 2020.

Spyware is the collection of personal information of unknowing users without any form of consent, including logging keystrokes, browser history, and hard drive content. In most cases, the stolen information will be sent to advertisement agencies and in more serious instances, spyware will attempt to intercept credit card information and passwords, or directly spy via webcam or other camera hacking.

Google Ads to Prohibit Spyware, Surveillance Products and Services

The policy changes by Google

As google prohibits spyware, it is important for digital marketers to note which changes will be taking place. The policy change made under the ‘Enabling Dishonest Policy Behaviour’ policy relates to the prohibition of marketing products/services with the purpose of monitoring an unknowing user without appropriate consent on all Google platforms, announced in July 2020 and enforced starting August 11th, 2020.

Digital marketers should be aware that the use of advertisements for spyware software with the purpose of ‘spying’ on users in the form of camera surveillance.

This policy is mostly focused on software, however audio recorders, nanny cameras, and dash cameras will be prohibited by Google. Furthermore, it has been specified by Google that private investigation services and products/services designed for parents to track and monitor their underage children have been excluded from the prohibited spyware advertisement category. Dashcams and Audio recorders expressly marketed for other purposes such as music recording are still eligible for ads.

The reason for the change: to cease spyware and to address privacy concerns

Apart from obvious legal concerns regarding the use of malicious spyware on computer users, there are related reasons for the announced policy change. Spyware is directly linked to hindered computer processing speed and slower startup times.

However, more serious reasons for the changes can be attributed to a higher exposure to virus attacks and exposure to access by third parties to personal information including passwords, credit card details and content of emails. With the increasing sophistication of hackers and spyware programs over the years, this has become of increasing public concern.

Finally, the banning of many hardware devices is directly attributable to an article published in 2018 regarding devices intended to spy on partners or family members in dishonest ways. 

Penalties: banning google accounts and google action.

The violation of policy for digital marketers will receive a warning 7 days prior to suspension of Google accounts.

Limitations: loopholes and other unaddressed areas

Although the policy change is a move by Google towards protecting their users, the exclusion of private investigation services and products/services designed for family use from the policy arises certain loopholes and areas that have been left unaddressed. This exclusion of certain software such as the ability of parents to track their children opens the door for spyware based companies to inexplicitly continue using their stalkerware through posing as family-friendly safety apps. Although the new policy will prohibit the explicit advertisement of these illegal spyware practices, it opens a gateway for businesses to nevertheless promote themselves.

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