Thousands Of Android Apps May Be Illegally Tracking Children, Study Finds

According to the findings of a new study, 3,337 Android apps geared toward kids and families are improperly collecting data on children, and all of them are now available on the Google Play Store.

Seven researchers analyzed almost 6,000 apps for children and found that the majority of them may be in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. The data they get from online tracking results in targeted advertising and automatic profiling of children, which is considered illegal under COPPA.

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.

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. "The rampant potential violations that we have uncovered points out basic enforcement work that needs to be done". 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.

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Amid the ongoing Facebook data leak row, a new study has said that over 3000 apps on Google Play have been improperly collecting data on children. Disney, Gameloft and Duolingo did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Washington Post.

The report continues that third-party software development kits (SDKs) are largely to blame for the high proportion of apps potentially in violation of COPPA. They added that it would not be hard for Google to augment their research to detect the apps and the developers that may be violating child privacy laws. The researchers further note that Google has, to some extent, done its part by requiring developers of apps for children to certify that they are COPPA-compliant.

For Korea, where more than 90 percent of the population uses mobile devices running on Google's Android operating system, Google Play dominates the app marketplace ecosystem.

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