Google Ads to prohibit spyware, surveillance products and services

The ban will apply globally.

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Google is updating its policies to prohibit spyware and surveillance tech products in Google Ads campaigns. including Shopping.

What’s changing? Starting August 11, Google’s “Products that enable dishonest behavior” policy will be updated. This is the policy that already covers products and services designed to mislead people such as fake documents, student essays and invalid click products as well as those that can give users unauthorized access to systems such as hacking devices, radar jammers or wiretapping products.

With this update, companies will not be able to promote products or services designed to enable people to “track or monitor another person or their activities without their authorization.”

Google Desktop Serp Nanny Cam 07102020
Text and Shopping ads on a search for “nanny cams” will largely be prohibited starting next month.

Examples of items that fall under the policy update include:

  • Spyware/malware that can be used to monitor texts, phone calls, or browsing history.
  • GPS trackers specifically marketed to spy or track someone without their consent.
  • Promotion of surveillance equipment such as cameras, audio recorders, dash cams, nanny cams.

Loop holes? We can probably expect to see some merchants try to get around this by tweaking their marketing copy. The policy is aimed at products “marketed with the express purposed of spying.”

Google Desktop Serp Monitor Cell Phone 07102020
Cell phone surveillance reviews site ads appear on a search for “monitor cell phone.”

The policy also does not apply to products designed for parental monitoring of their underage children or to private investigation services. And what about products marketed as pet cams, for example?

Why we care. Google has already limited ads from appearing on explicit spousal surveillance-related searches. This expands that effort to a broader range of services, products and presumably queries.

If you currently promote these types of products via Google Ads, remove them from your product feeds and campaigns by August 11 or risk account suspension. Violators will receive a warning at least seven days before Google potentially suspends an Ads accounts.

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About the author

Ginny Marvin
Ginny Marvin was Third Door Media’s former Editor-in-Chief (October 2018 to December 2020), running the day-to-day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin wrote about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, MarTech and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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