Privacy and security are both team sports, and no one person or organization completely changes the landscape alone. This is why coalition-building is often at the heart of activism. In 2019, EFF was one of the ten organizations that founded the Coalition Against Stalkerware, a group of security companies, non-profit organizations, and academic researchers that support survivors of domestic abuse by working together to address technology-enabled abuse and raise awareness about the threat posed by stalkerware. Among its early achievements are an effort to create an industry-wide definition of stalkerware, encouraging research into the proliferation of stalkerware, and convincing anti-virus companies to detect and report the presence of stalkerware as malicious or unwanted programs.
Stalkerware is the class of apps that are sold commercially for the purpose of covertly spying on another person’s device. They can be blatantly marketed as tools for “catching a cheating spouse” or they may euphemistically describe themselves as tools for tracking your children or employees’ devices. The key defining feature of stalkerware is that it is designed to operate covertly, to trick the user into believing that they are not being monitored.
Less than a year after its founding, the coalition has more than doubled in size. The original ten partners (Avira, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence, G DATA Cyber Defense, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, The National Network to End Domestic Violence, NortonLifeLock, Operation Safe Escape, and WEISSER RING) have been joined by AEquitas with its Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC), Anonyome Labs, AppEsteem Corporation, bff Bundesverband Frauenberatungsstellen und Frauennotrufe, Centre Hubertine Auclert, Copperhead, Corrata, Commonwealth Peoples’ Association of Uganda, Cyber Peace Foundation, F-Secure, and Illinois Stalking Advocacy Center. The coalition is especially excited about adding organizations in India and Uganda, because stalkerware is a global problem that requires global solutions beyond the countries and regions represented by the coalition’s founding organizations.
The Coalition has also produced an explanatory video, which describes common indicators to check for if a user thinks their device has been infected with stalkerware. The video is available in six languages: English, Spanish, Italian, German, French, and Portuguese. The Coalition’s website also contains resources detailing what stalkerware is, how it works, how to detect it, and how to protect your devices, as well as contact information for many local victims’ services organizations. Coalition members have also released documentation and evidence collection apps (DocuSAFE and NO STALK), for use on trusted devices to collect, store, and share evidence of abuse with law enforcement and survivor support organizations.
The fight is just beginning, but norms are already changing.