Sensitive details like location, text messages and call history were collected. The apps were most likely designed by a Russian developer. “These apps are highly unethical and problematic for people’s privacy and shouldn’t be on the Google Play Store, as they promote criminal behavior, and can be abused by employers, stalkers or abusive partners to spy on their victims,” Nikolaos Chrysaidos, Avast’s head of mobile threat intelligence and security, said in a statement. Google has policies forbidding these apps and has taken some steps to fight partner abuse. The seven pulled apps had been installed more than 130,000 times.
Two of the apps, Spy Tracker, and SMS Tracker, were installed over 50,000 times each. Once placed on the target’s phone, the such app showed the spy how to eliminate any sign that it had been installed. Google encourages people to report any apps that violate its standards. Stalkerware apps often pose as software designed for children’s safety or finding stolen phones, but they are mostly used for abusers stalking people in personal relationships.