Android Apps Found to Improperly Track Kids

Android Apps Found to Improperly Track Kids

Although the survey revealed that merely collecting the data does not amount to breaking any law under the COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act), there is a federal law requiring developers to limit tracking kids' online activity for kids under the age of 13. "While many of these SDKs offer configuration options to respect COPPA by disabling tracking and behavioral advertising, our data suggest that a majority of apps either do not make use of these options or incorrectly propagate them across mediation SDKs".

"However, the FTC has just been through [an] earthquake-like wake up call, given the revelations that Facebook allowed companies like Cambridge Analytica to seize data on 87 million people ..."

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.

"This is an incredibly important study that clears demonstrates that many apps for children are violating Coppa at a massive scale", said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood. Also, none of these Android apps attained verifiable parental consent as required under the law since their automated tool was enough to activate them.

This study could monitor when data is first accessed and where it is sent, according to the published report. Kids who download game or language apps face an even tougher time understanding what they are giving up in exchange. Some of the apps named in the report include KidzInMind, TabTale's "Pop Girls-High School Band", and Fun Kid Racing.

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For example, developers creating apps that span wide audiences might legitimately collect data from adults but struggle to avoid harvesting children's data.

Google possibly has trouble with maintaining their privacy terms as a significant portion of their applications directed towards children compromise them.

"If a robot is able to click through their consent screen which resulted in carrying data, obviously a small child that doesn't know what they're reading is likely to do the same", Egelman said.

Google did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation's request for comment in time of publication. 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 study also found that 40% of these apps shared personal information without proper security protocols, and 39% disregarded contractual obligations aimed at protecting children's privacy. The security measure is the "standard method for securely transmitting information", the researchers said.

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