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

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

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

Almost one in five of the most popular free children- and family-oriented apps in the Google Play store improperly collects "identifiers or other personally identifiable information", a study has found.

Citing the International Computer Science Institute research (ICSI), it said that more than half of 5,855 Android apps on Google Play were potentially violating USA privacy laws that protect children under 13 from invasive data collection.

Another 1,100 shared persistent identifying information with third parties, and 2,281 appeared to violate the Google terms of service forbidding apps from sharing those identifiers to the same destination as the Android Advertising ID.

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Then there's the problem with ensuring children are honest with how old they are when accessing apps and that they do indeed seek the permission of parents when prompted.

Researchers said that based on their analysis, most applications didn't break COPPA directly, but mainly due to the inclusion of software development kits (SDKs), which often collected this data automatically for the SDK makers, sometimes without the parent app collecting any data at all. There are some things that are still at work which will reveal very soon.

Even though Google has taken steps to enforce COPPA compliance, the researchers say they have found lack of enforcement. The study shows, however, that actually enforcing the law can be tricky. Also, none of these Android apps attained verifiable parental consent as required under the law since their automated tool was enough to activate them.

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The team found a majority of the potential COPPA violations stemmed from lazy app-building.

Children's apps typically have different standards of tracking data. But researchers believe that it is up to the regulators to decide.

The study, which comes from researchers at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, CA, analyzed 5,855 of the most popular free Android apps targeted at kids and families. "As has been demonstrated time and time again, self-regulation is no substitute for sustained government enforcement". CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the US Congress where he was tasked with responding to over 500 questions about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, data privacy among other topics.

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Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, said: "For years, the FTC has failed to address how both Google and Facebook routinely undermine consumer privacy". Parents are confronted with a almost impossible task. The Google AIY app was launched just today on April 16th, 2018 and is in its initial version that's v1.0.0.192550289 and shortly, we will see more features as well as various utilities getting added to the app.

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