Study shows thousands of apps in Google Play tracks kids' data illegally

Study shows thousands of apps in Google Play tracks kids' data illegally

Improper data collection is now under the spotlight due to the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Only a week after it was alleged that YouTube violated U.S. laws that protect children's online privacy, a study has claimed a majority of popular free children's apps in the Google Play Store are also in breach of these rules. So in the end, 57% of all the apps studied are actually potentially violating the law. "The researchers published their findings in a study (PDF) titled, "'Won't Somebody Think of the Children'?

"While accessing a sensitive resource or sharing it over the internet does not necessarily mean that an app is in violation of Coppa, none of these apps attained verifiable parental consent: if the [automated testing] was able to trigger the functionality, then a child would as well", explained the researchers.


Other crucial discoveries that were made under the study include 281 apps that collected the location or contact data of children without asking for permission from parents, and 1,100 apps that shared persistent identifying information that can be used for behavioral advertising methods that are banned to be used on children. 40% of the apps also shared users' personal information without really applying security measures. The apps may appear to be violating COPPA or the terms of service of the Google Play Store, but it is up to the Federal Trade Commission and Google to determine the truth behind the violations. A whopping 92 percent of Facebook-linked apps failed to hinder use by children under the age of 13.

According to the "Korea Mobile Internet Industry Report 2017" published last month by the Korea Mobile Internet Business Association, Google Play accounted for around 60.7 percent of mobile app content sales previous year, with most of the revenue coming from mobile games.

Google tests a number of features and design changes internally which never make it into the final release, so it's possible this dramatic change won't make it into the final Android P launch.

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