Study Finds Thousands of Android Apps Tracking Children

Adjust Comment Print

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

But a new study suggests that thousands of apps in the Google Play store are potentially violating USA laws by collecting an excessive amount of data from kids. 28 percent of these "accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions", 73 percent of the applications "transmitted sensitive data over the internet", and 40 percent shared personal information without applying reasonable security measures. Per Engadget's report, such data collection methods could be proven as violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA).

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.

About 40 percent of apps transmitted info without using "reasonable security measures", and almost all 1,280 apps with Facebook tie-ins were not properly using the social network's code flags to limit under-13 use. So in the end, 57% of all the apps studied are actually potentially violating the law. Of the more than 5 thousand apps, 1,280 of those integrated with Facebook and 92% of that did not use the social media giant's configuration options to protect users under 13.

A team of university researchers and scientists using an "automatic evaluation of the privacy behaviors of Android apps", diagnosed 5855 apps in the Play Store that are designed for families and children. 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.

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 a year ago, with most of the revenue coming from mobile games.

Google may announce the change at its I/O developer conference in May.