Tech

Thousands of Android apps are improperly tracking children, says new report

Thousands of Android apps are improperly tracking children, says new report

Around 3,337 of free apps on the Google Play Store are wrongfully collecting data about children, Engadget reported.

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

Google Play has had some users already skeptical of the use of their data for quite some time, especially in regards to the use of location and other such sensitive information. They ran the apps for about ten minutes in order to simulate an actual user. It triggered a chain reaction where lawmakers, as well as the population at large, started scrutinising how tech companies are collecting and using information on them. While some of the violations may be unintentional, it's unsettling to learn that 73% of these apps transmitted sensitive data over the internet.

How do you have difficulties limiting what your children can access online? Information collected on children varied from their location data to personal details such as names, email addresses and phone numbers.

"Geolocation data not only reveals where individuals live, but could also enable inferences about their socioeconomic classes, everyday habits, and health conditions, among others", the study reads. Popular examples include the language learning app Duolingo, the infinite running game Minion Rush and the Disney puzzle game Where's My Water?. A further 1,100 shared persistent identifying info with third parties for restricted purposes, while 2,281 of them seemed to violate Google terms of service forbidding apps from sharing those identifiers to the same destination as the Android Advertising ID (which gives you control over tracking).

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Aside from that we still have questions about how the entire system will be implemented on, say, a Samsung device that's updated to Android P. Will manufacturers be forced to adopt the new tap-and-context system, or will they be able to keep using the old system and putting the back button on the wrong side of the screen? However, the company had been transmitting lists of saved WiFi networks and access points to TalkingData, an analytics company that BabyBus no longer partners with. The company has 82 apps in this category, such as "Fun Kid Racing" and "Motocross Kids".

Activists have been pressuring the Federal Trade Commission in the recent months to take action against a number of large corporations they allege are illegally directing ad-targeting tools at children, including YouTube and Disney. In 2016, the ad network InMobi was fined Dollars 1 million for gathering the location of users - including children - without proper consent.

Almost all of the 1,280 apps (92%) with Facebook tie-ins were not properly using the social network's systems to prevent under-13 use. Developers can use our testing infrastructure to assess how well their apps comply with their privacy policies and regulatory requirements, prior to releasing those apps to the public.

"The researchers must have stated that they are over 13 while performing these simulations", he said.


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