Thousands Of Creeper Android Apps Are Improperly Tracking Children According To Study

Thousands Of Creeper Android Apps Are Improperly Tracking Children According To Study

It's not just Facebook and YouTube that are in hot water for their data-collection practices, specifically those involving minors.

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 USA privacy laws.

The ICSI researchers used a new automated system to determine whether the apps complied with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The study found that over 200 of the apps examined collected location data of children without being granted permission by the parents. As users and authorities seek to clamp down on illegal data collection, this research draws specific attention to the online security of children, particularly in this day and age of widespread internet connectivity and usage through smartphones.

"This is a market failure", says Serge Egelman, one of the co-authors of the study, and the director of usable security and privacy research at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California at Berkeley.

"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".

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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.

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.

The researchers could not evaluate apps running on iPhones and iPads as they did not have access to Apple's iOS data.

The study, titled Won't Somebody Think of the Children?

Furthermore, 39% of the apps studied violate Google's terms of services when it comes to sharing of persistent identifiers across platforms, apps, or devices.

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