Google has removed, from the Play Store, apps that could be used to stalk someone’s whereabouts.

The issue of internet privacy and spying cookies is one thing; mobile stalkerware is another. Google has reportedly removed seven apps from the Play Store after the antivirus company Avast discovered that they can be used to stalk a person’s whereabouts, and keep track of what they are doing on their phones.

Avast’s mobile threat researchers discovered seven stalkerware apps in the Play Store. Considering the nature of these apps, one would be quick to think that they’d be hidden somewhere they won’t be easily found but, as CNet noted, they’re “right in the open.” Anyone can find these apps and install them on their target person’s smartphone to monitor their every move.

These apps, likely developed by Russian developers according to Avast, present themselves as monitoring apps designed to help parents keep track of their kids, or to help employers know if their employees are actually working in the office or not.

Here’s how the apps work:

  • First, the snoop (or stalker) needs to have access to their target’s smartphone. They will need to download the app on their target’s device and install them there.
  • Second, once installed, the apps will then ask the installer (or stalker) for his/her email address and password. The spy app will be sent to the designated email address.
  • Third, the spy app will then give the stalker instructions on how to delete anything that can be seen on the target’s smartphone. This is to hide the presence of the stalkerware app from the target’s eyes.
  • Once set, the apps will inform stalkers about their target smartphone user’s location, their contacts, as well as call and SMS history.

These apps have been installed a combined 130,000 times -- two of them being installed more than 50,000 times each. Here are the published names on the Play Store before they were removed:

  • Spy Tracker (more than 50,000 installs)
  • SMS Tracker (more than 50,000 installs)
  • Spy Kids Tracker
  • Phone Cell Tracker
  • Mobile Tracking
  • Track Employees Check Work Phone Online Spy Free
  • Employee Work Spy

Google confirmed the removal of the apps to CNet and said it has policies prohibiting such spy apps, and encourages people to report any such apps that violate its standards.

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