This article was updated from its prior version, “Hey Google, It’s Time to Reinstate Covenant Eyes in the Play Store” version after Google reinstated Covenant Eyes to the Play Store on March 1, 2023.
From September 21, 2022 to March 1, 2023, Google had suspended the Covenant Eyes Android Sensor app from their Play Store. We are grateful to be reinstated so that we can continue to serve our Android customers through the world’s largest Android app store.
We’ve updated this article to remember the story, so that if anyone ever gets confused about whether our app is “malware” or “stalkerware”, they’ll know our perspective.
This is what led to our prior suspension.
On September 21, 2022, after 11 years of serving customers on Android, Google suspended the Covenant Eyes Android Sensor 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 was 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, how did we respond to the Google Play Store suspension?
After Google suspended our Android app, we immediately followed Google’s appeal process. Each week we were suspended, we emailed their appeal team trying to understand the details so we could address any valid concerns. Unfortunately, the only responses we received were emails that said, “Your appeal is processing, please be rest assured.”
Our goal was to reach someone at Google who would listen to our argument and see that we don’t violate any of their policies, but for about 150 days we were unable to make progress. That’s when we originally posted here, hoping to encourage Google to reinstate Covenant Eyes to the Play Store.
Thankfully, our appeal was finally accepted, and we were able to submit an update that Google approved.
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 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,” as a stalkerware app would be. 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.
Thankfully, we’re back in Google Play!
We’re grateful that we can now serve our Android members through our powerful Android Sensor App. You can find it on Google Play here.
Also, if you were one of the many thousands of members who sideloaded Android app while we were suspended, you should be able to seamlessly upgrade to the latest Google Play version to keep up with all the updates we regularly release.
A huge thanks to all our friends and colleagues who prayed and supported us during this time!