By this point, you’ve probably noticed that the Covenant Eyes sensor app for Android is missing from the Google Play Store.
Here’s what’s going on with Covenant Eyes on Android.
On September 21, 2022, after 11 years of serving customers on Android, Google suspended the Covenant Eyes Android app from their Play Store.
The suspension occurred the night before the publication of an article that detailed how one church may have been abusing our software to create an environment that led to pain and hurt. Given the timing of our suspension, our best guess is that Google decided to label our software as “malware” or “stalkerware” based on this article.
But that’s not who we are.
Since 2002, Covenant Eyes has helped more than 1.5 million people experience victory over pornography. More than 1.5 million people who know the truth: We are neither malware nor stalkerware. More than 1.5 million people who have overcome a pornography addiction because of a positive accountability relationship and know the joy of that freedom. Covenant Eyes is essential in their ongoing desire to avoid porn.
Because done right, accountability works. After 22 years of walking with men, women, and families through overcoming or preventing pornography use, we have an overwhelming number of positive stories that prove our effectiveness.
So, what are we doing about the Google Play Store suspension?
After Google suspended our Android app, we followed Google’s process and immediately filed an appeal. Each week, we’ve emailed their appeal team trying to understand the details so we can address any valid concerns. Unfortunately, the only responses we have received are emails that say, “Your appeal is processing, please be rest assured.”
Our goal is to reach someone at Google who will listen to our argument and see that we don’t violate any of their policies, but so far, we have been unable to make progress. That’s why we are sharing our case here, hoping to encourage Google to reinstate Covenant Eyes to the Play Store.
Here’s why we believe our Android app was suspended by mistake.
First, we wholeheartedly agree with Google’s malware policy. We also “strive to provide a safe Android ecosystem for our users and their Android devices.”
Google shouldn’t allow apps that spy on people, provide ways of taking over a device, compromise a person’s privacy, or facilitate stalking. It’s good that Google works to protect users from harmful apps!
But we think that Google may mistakenly believe the “stalkerware” section in their malware policy applies to us:
Apps exclusively designed and marketed for parents to track their children or enterprise management, provided they fully comply with the requirements described below are the only acceptable surveillance apps. These apps cannot be used to track anyone else (a spouse, for example) even with their knowledge and permission, regardless if persistent notification is displayed. (Bold added by editor.)
Since we haven’t been able to talk with anyone at Google, we can only guess why they think this applies to us.
As our members know, we are not “exclusively designed and marketed for parents to track their children.” Millions of adults struggle with unwanted pornography use. We want to help them. That’s why we’re here.
Covenant Eyes does not sell our app for “surveillance,” where someone forces another person to install the software so they can be monitored against their will. Our members install Covenant Eyes for themselves, to reach their own goals. This is the vital distinction.
Covenant Eyes helps people who want to become healthy.
Like a person who installs a health app to track their daily steps to reach an exercise goal, people who want to be free from pornography install Covenant Eyes to track their progress on their own devices. Then, to leverage the power of accountability, they invite their own ally—a trusted friend, mentor, or colleague—to receive their activity and encourage them to reach their goal: a porn-free life.
Covenant Eyes is not used to “track anyone else.” People who want to be free from unwanted pornography use Covenant Eyes for themselves. That’s the key difference between accountability that works and “surveillance,” which does not.
Will you help us get back into the Google Play Store?
We believe that we comply with Google’s policies, and 11 years of Google’s prior approvals suggest that up until recently, they did too. We agree with and applaud Google for taking steps to protect people from exploitation and surveillance. We too want to serve our members with the safest and highest quality product we can create.
It’s tough to do that when our customers can’t find our app on Google Play.
It’s time for Google to fully reinstate our Android app, including our years of activity and reviews, so that we can continue to serve those Android users who want the vital service we offer.
Millions of us know that accountability is a positive and life-changing tool. And we want millions more to find freedom from porn.
If you believe that Google made the wrong decision by suspending us from the Play Store, send a private Facebook message to Google Play Developer Support here and let them know. This appears to be the only public way to reach them.