Researchers find thousands of Android applications improperly tracking children's data

Joanna Estrada
April 17, 2018

The Independent reported that more than 3,300 Android apps on Google Play have been improperly collecting data on children. "The Brick Matcher app is a great tool to find the ideal match for existing brickwork on refurb projects or to ensure a new build "blends in" with surrounding properties, adding kerb appeal and value".

The study found thousands of kid-targeted apps were collecting data from the device, some including Global Positioning System location and personal information. What is concerning is the fact that Android Lollipop (5.0 and 5.1) holds a combined market share of 22.9 percent, whereas Android KitKat still runs on 10.5 percent devices. Popular examples include the language learning app Duolingo, the infinite running game Minion Rush and the Disney puzzle game Where's My Water?.

Researchers said that based on their analysis, most applications didn't break COPPA directly, but mainly due to the inclusion of software development kits (SDKs), which often collected this data automatically for the SDK makers, sometimes without the parent app collecting any data at all.

The adtech company released a statement yesterday confirming that it has applied for an injunction with the UK High Court to prevent Google from disabling AdMob generated advertising content and removing Unlockd apps from the Google Play Store.

"Given the number of children's apps and a complex third-party ecosystem, analysis at scale is important to properly understand the privacy landscape", the study's conclusion added.

The apps targeted at children, were downloaded 750,000 times, on an average.

Know how COPPA works. That notice could come in the form of an email, a phone call, or it could simply pop up on the screen. Parents also have the option to allow an online service to collect personal information, but not share it with others.

Launched a year ago, Google's AIY Projects are simple hardware kits for building AI-powered devices like an Assistant speaker and a camera with image recognition capabilities.

Around 4.8% of the apps studied were in clear violation of sharing location or contact information without consent, while 18% shared identifiers for target advertising.

ICSI has made its findings available and searchable on the AppCensus website. If you find something you don't like, submit a complaint to the FTC.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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