What are “dual-use” apps?

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Abusers in the context of intimate partner violence (IPV) misuse various technologies to surveil and harass their victims. Some of these technologies include mobile apps and Smart Home devices. Recently, anti-virus apps have improved their detection of stalkerware, a term that refers to spyware apps used in IPV. Nevertheless, there are other types of apps of concern for IPV survivors: dual-use apps (i.e., apps that have a legitimate purpose like Google Maps that have features such as location sharing that could be abused by someone to monitor others).

As IPV is global health issue, it is key to understand the prevalence of dual-use apps around the world and raise more awareness on them. If you would like to learn more about dual-use apps, I encourage you to read this study in which we identified various dual-use apps in Google Play Store available in different languages and countries. Additionally, we highlight various opportunities for companies like Google to improve their blocking of certain terms abusers might be using to find apps to surveil IPV survivors, among other insights.