Researchers have discovered over 3,000 Android apps for kids on the Google Play Store that improperly collect data, which should raise an alarm for parents around the world. Will Google be able to address the data privacy problem before it further escalates?
According to a new study published by researchers affiliated with the International Computer Science Institute, thousands of free apps available in the Google Play store are tracking the online activity of children in such ways which violate United States privacy laws. It's possible that the automated tool used in the study could help analyze the app submissions.
Around 57 percent of the tested apps could be violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which restricts data collection for children under 13.
"While many of these SDKs offer configuration options to respect COPPA by disabling tracking and behavioral advertising, our data suggest that a majority of apps either do not make use of these options or incorrectly propagate them across mediation SDKs". 1,280 apps integrated with Facebook, yet 92 per cent of them did not correctly implement the social network's security measures to protect the data of users under the age of 13. 3,337 of those apps were found to be engaging in improper collection, with 281 of them bagging contact and/or location info without asking for parental approval.
What Can Google Do About It?
Researchers affiliated with the International Computer Science Institute authored a study titled 'Won't Somebody Think of the Children?' Examining COPPA Compliance at Scale and published their findings of an automated testing process in the Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium. 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.
And given the volume of apps added to the Play Store on a daily basis, Google faces a massive challenge on policing the granular details.
With thousands of Androidapps added to the Google Play Store daily, it may be hard for Google to manually inspect all the apps to make sure that no laws are being broken.
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