Thousands of Android Apps Improperly Tracking Kids' Activities
17 April, 2018, 20:31
A Duolingo spokesperson said the information that the app shares with third-parties is only used to fix bugs and provide data on crashes.
They noted that 3,337 family and children-focused apps were improperly collecting data on children, which could be in violation of the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Shackelford sees the study fitting into our present conversation about social media: This should be a wakeup call to these developers, along with platforms like Google and Facebook that host them.
An automated system was made use of researchers from the International Computer Science Institute to find out if the apps met with the regulations of the COPPA law meant to protect children. Furthermore, he added that these companies are not expected to reverse-engineer apps to make an informed decision whether it is safe for children to use.
Now that we're at least pretending to care about privacy in the wake of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, a growing number of folks seem to be realizing that such privacy violations are the norm, not the exception. Incidentally, concerns of COPPA violation were also flagged against YouTube earlier this month, which is owned by Google.
In other wards, most of these apps track kids in ways explicitly banned by United States law.
Up to 235 apps were accessing the phone's Global Positioning System data - 184 of which transmitted the device's location to advertisers, according to the study. Some of these apps include KidzInMind, TabTale's Pop Girls-High School Band, and Fun Kid Racing.
One development tool - Appinventor - was found to hardcode privacy keys in apps, although this is something that has been addressed in an update.
"These problems are rampant, and it's resulting in kids being exposed to targeted advertising and automatic profiling that could be illegal", said Serge Egelman, co-author of the report and director of usable security and privacy research at ICSI. However, the report further elaborates that the back button will only appear when it is required.
Scott Shackelford, associate professor of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, and Cybersecurity Program Chair, at IU-Bloomington told us "This important study highlights the sad fact that tech companies are simply not doing enough to comply with the regulatory requirements Congress has put into place to help protect vulnerable, and impressionable, kids".
Google did not respond to a request for comment. Then, there were 2,281 apps transmitting Android Advertising IDs that Google directs the developers and SDKs to use as the sole persistent method of ad tracking. The study also found that 40 percent of the apps transmitted information without using proper security measures.
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