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17 April 2018, 09:29 | Edward Lowe
According to the findings of a new study, 3,337 Androidapps geared toward kids and families are improperly collecting data on children, and all of them are now available on the Google Play Store.
A team of university researchers and computer scientists revealed by using an automatic evaluation of the privacy behaviors of Android apps, that of 5,855 apps in the Play Store that is designed for Families program, 28 percent "accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions" and 73 percent of the applications "transmitted sensitive data over the internet".
"Based on our automated analysis of 5,855 of the most popular free children's apps, we found that a majority are potentially in violation of COPPA, mainly due to their use of third-party SDKs".
In addition, the study states that 19 percent of the children's apps observed collected identifiers or other personally indentifiable information even though the SDKs they're built on outright prohibit doing so. The researchers also said that almost half the apps fail to always use standard security measures to transmit sensitive data over the Web, suggesting a breach of reasonable data security measures mandated by COPPA.
According to industry sources on Monday, Korea's FTC has begun surveying local mobile game companies to review whether they were pressured or asked by Google to either "launch their games only through specific app marketplaces", or to "not launch their games via other app marketplaces". But it is the location tracking that might be most concerning to parents. The study also points to a breakdown of so-called self-regulation by app developers who claim to abide by child privacy laws, as well as by Google, which runs the Android platform, he said. The study here covers the data tracking activities of about 6,000 apps that are aimed at children, including Disney's Where's My Water, Gameloft's Minion Rush and Duolingo, an app to learn languages on your smartphone, reports the Washington Post. "However, as our results show, there appears to not be any (or only limited) enforcement", the researchers said.
Google has yet to respond to this study but they will probably have to explain why these apps were allowed to still publish on the Play Store. Will Google be able to address the data privacy problem before it further escalates?
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