Play Store Is Filled With Android Apps Tracking Kids' Online Activity

Over 3300 Android Apps on Google Play Store Are Improperly 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.

As ZDNet notes, the fact that these apps were downloadable from the Google Play store made them more credible than they should have been, which is why they were downloaded as many times as they were before detection. This webpage allows developers to choose which Android devices they don't want installing their app, mainly for compatibility reasons.

Around 3,337 of free apps on the Google Play Store are wrongfully collecting data about children, Engadget reported.

Last year, Disney was sued for violating COPPA standards, with the lawsuit claiming that more than 40 of its apps were illegally spying on children. It was mainly aimed to determine if Google and the app creators were violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law that restricts the extent of data collection on people under the age of 13. About 1100 apps shared persistent identifiers that could be utilized in behavioral advertising techniques, something that is debarred for use on kids by COPPA. The latest finding could be another big revelation related to user privacy following Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal.

According to the study, 28% of the apps reviewed accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions.

"Google has basically looked the other way while it was able to generate revenues off of children's apps", Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told the Washington Post.

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The researchers said that Google had taken steps to help enforce Coppa compliance, with the Designed for Families programme that provides developers of children's apps with information on the law and requires certification that apps comply.

Egelman said, "If a robot can click-through their consent screen, which caused the sharing of data, children that do not understand what they are agreeing to can do the same".

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This not only includes name, usernames, and emails, but also geo-location data, IP addresses, and other identity markers that could be used to track children online and link them to advertising IDs.

Almost all of the 1,280 apps (92%) with Facebook tie-ins were not properly using the social network's systems to prevent under-13 use.

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