Researchers discovered that over 3,000 Android apps for kids on the Google Play Store improperly collect data, including nearly 300 apps that collect location or contact data without parents’ permission. Can Google do something about this improper data collection issue? ( Frederick Florin | AFP/Getty Images )
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.
Improper data collection is currently under the spotlight due to the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. Will Google be able to address the data privacy problem before it further escalates?
Over 3,000 Android Apps Improperly Collect Kids’ Data
According to the findings of a new study, 3,337 Android apps geared toward kids and families are improperly collecting data on children, and all of them are currently available on the Google Play Store.
The study used an automated testing process to determine how many apps were possibly in violation of the COPPA law of the United States. COPPA, which stands for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, regulates how apps and websites are allowed to collect and process data from children below 13 years old.
Out of the 5,855 Android apps that are included in the Designed for Families program of the Google Play Store, the study found that 28 percent of them “accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions,” while an alarming 73 percent of the apps “transmitted sensitive data over the internet.”
Other crucial discoveries that were made under the study include 281 apps that collected the location or contact data of children without asking for permission from parents, and 1,100 apps that shared persistent identifying information that can be used for behavioral advertising methods that are banned to be used on children.
In addition, 92 percent of the 1,280 apps that were linked to Facebook did not properly use the social network’s system to restrict users under 13 years old. The study also found that 40 percent of the apps transmitted information without using proper security measures.
What Can Google Do About It?
While the findings of the study reveal a concerning trend among Android app for kids, the researchers claim that they are not showing “definitive legal liability.” 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.
What is clear, however, is that collecting children’s data is a widespread problem among Android apps for kids in the Google Play Store. Google, however, will have to mount a gargantuan effort to solve the problem.
With thousands of Android apps added to the Google Play Store daily, it may be difficult for Google to manually inspect all the apps to make sure that no laws are being broken. The automated tool used by the study may be a start in dealing with possible COPPA violations, but Google will have to think of more ways to deal with this issue.
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