Over 3300 Android Apps on Google Play Store Are Improperly Tracking Kids


"This is an incredibly important study that clears demonstrates that many apps for children are violating Coppa at a massive scale", said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood. In the latest twist, researchers have found that Google Play store is full of apps that track children's online activities and sensitive information without their consent. About 40 percent of apps transmitted info without using "reasonable security measures", and 92 percent of the 1,280 apps with Facebook tie-ins weren't properly using the social network's code flags to limit under-13 use.

Although the FTC did not explicitly state that they would investigate Google's abuse of market dominance, it seems that the FTC inquired whether or not Google committed unfair trade practices as the FTC caught some circumstantial evidence of Google's violations of law. The study found that many of these apps targeted to kids were in violation of that.

A team from the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) used an automated testing system to analyse 5,855 Android apps that are available to download on Google Play, and found that more than 3,000 of them were collecting more data than they should.

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Geolocation data not only reveals where individuals live, but can also help infer socioeconomic scenarios, everyday habits, and health conditions, among others.

This information was actually leaked by Google in a screenshot on the Android Developers Blog, which was nearly instantly removed, cropped, and re-uploaded. According to COPPA, using the behavioural advertising techniques on children is prohibited in the US.

These findings show how protecting children online isn't as simple as doing an age check or asking for parents' permission-both can be overridden by a thrifty child- and that Google, third-party apps, and officials have a long way to go in effectively enforcing COPPA. Some of the apps named in the report include KidzInMind, TabTale's "Pop Girls-High School Band", and Fun Kid Racing. In 2016, the ad network InMobi was fined Dollars 1 million for gathering the location of users - including children - without proper consent.

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Critics of Google's app platform say that the company and other players in the digital-advertising business, such as Facebook, have profited greatly from advances in data-tracking technology, even as regulators have failed to keep up with the resulting privacy intrusions.

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