More than 3000 apps on Google Play tracking children, says study

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Only a week after it was alleged that YouTube violated United States 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. To conduct the study, researchers modified Android's permission system to enable the real-time monitoring of apps' access to protected resources (like location data, address book contacts, etc.) and instrumented all the functions in the Android platform that access these sensitive resources. Worse, we observed that 19% of children's apps collect identifiers or other personally identifiable information (PII) via SDKs whose terms of service outright prohibit their use in child-directed apps...[and] 66% transmit other, non-resettable, persistent identifiers as well... "We're working on some major updates to Gmail (they're still in draft phase)", a Google representative said in an email to The Verge.

Still, the study could put parents on edge about what apps their children are using.

"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", the researchers wrote. There are some things that are still at work which will reveal very soon. Using a Nexus 5X phone, researchers downloaded top apps targeted toward kids from November 2016 to March 2018, running them for about 10 minutes to simulate an actual user.

MOBILETRACKING is creepy enough, but a study has found that some 3,300 Android apps have been potentially illegally tracking kids. They found that few apps are actually certified under Safe Harbor and of those that are "potential violations are prevalent".

Children's apps typically have different standards of tracking data. "Thus, industry self-regulation appears to be ineffective", the researchers wrote.

But recent research has identified thousands of apps on the Google Play Store that could be in violation of COPPA, all of which have been certified as COPPA-compliant by Google.

Data privacy concerns have come into focus in the wake of Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, with people and lawmakers giving a closer look into how much information tech companies have on them. Parents are confronted with a almost impossible task. Shackleford advised being more proactive, "To really get ahead of the problem, though, parents should use software like FamilyTime to help keep a closer eye on the apps their kids are using, and make sure that private browsers and extensions-like DuckDuckGo and Privacy Badger-are the norm".

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