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Thousands of android apps tracking children’s data: study

Children are becoming tech-savvy and some may argue it’s the need of the hour, but an alarming research has surfaced claiming that more than 3,300 smartphone apps have been improperly collecting data on children.

A study of 5,855 Android apps on Google Play found that more than half of them were potentially violating US privacy laws that protect children under 13 from invasive data collection.

The researchers from the International Computer Science Institute used a new automated system to determine whether the apps complied with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

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“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 states.

Smartphone children

“Although we cannot know the true number of children’s apps in the Play Store, we believe that our results are representative given that the apps that we examined represent the most popular free ones.”

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This method was able to give an indication of the scale of the problem, however the researchers said it was up to regulators like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to actually evaluate each app and enforce the law if appropriate.

While thousands of apps may be in violation of privacy laws, one of the most disturbing findings from the study was that 256 of the apps collected the location data of children without the permission of parents.

Other data improperly collected included personal details like names, email addresses and phone numbers.

The researchers did not have access to Apple’s iOS data, meaning it was not possible to evaluate apps running on iPhones and iPads.

 

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