Thousands of child apps and games potentially violate United States data sharing law

Over 3300 Android Apps on Google Play Store Are Improperly Tracking Kids

Over 3300 Android Apps on Google Play Store Are Improperly Tracking Kids

A study from researchers affiliated with the International Computer Science Institute created and used an automated system to find data on apps marketed or marked for being family-friendly.

MOBILETRACKING is creepy enough, but a study has found that some 3,300 Android apps have been potentially illegally tracking kids.

Seven researchers analysed almost 6,000 apps for children and found that majority of them on Google Play Store are tracking data on kids in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which regulates data collection from users who are under 13 years old.

The report comes at a time when the industry is under scrutiny for their data collection and protection practices.

Data like geolocation, personal details like email addresses and phone numbers were the crucial ones collected by Android apps.

Moreover, the app weights around 3MB (2.4MB to be precise) and you can download it from the link given below. The FCT reportedly confirmed whether or not employees of an app market requested game developers not to register their games in other app markets and whether or not game developers received special favors or disadvantages with respect to the matter. "We observed that 81 of their 82 apps that we tested shared Global Positioning System coordinates with advertisers", the researchers stated in the report. Worse, we observed that 19% of children's apps collect identifiers or other personally identifiable information (PII) via SDKs whose terms of service outright prohibit their use in child-directed apps...[and] 66% transmit other, non-resettable, persistent identifiers as well... After developing an automated testing tool, researchers scanned nearly 6,000 family- and child-oriented Android applications in Google Play to identify possible issues in their data privacy policy.

The report adds that not only the design looks similar to what the button-less iPhone X sports but will also work in a similar fashion as they will be able to access their home screens by simply swiping up. In 2016, the ad network InMobi was fined United States dollars 1 million for gathering the location of users - including children - without proper consent. Moreover, "efforts by Google to limit tracking ... have had little success".

A portion of the advertising revenue is returned back to users in the form of mobile data, credit off phone bills, entertainment content or loyalty points.

The researchers published the study, "Won't Somebody Think of the Children?"

"These problems are rampant, and it's resulting in kids being exposed to targeted advertising and automatic profiling that could be illegal", said Serge Egelman, co-author of the report and director of usable security and privacy research at ICSI.

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