The biggest violation, the researchers argue, often doesn't come from app developers themselves - third-party analytics companies are exploiting loopholes without going through the proper channels to report what kind of data they're collecting. Both Apple and Google have gotten in trouble over their apps and their operating system gathering data without truly informed consent. Needless to say, those are red flags for any app targeted at kids.
To get understand the scope of the problem, the team of computer scientists created software that runs each of 5,855 popular children's apps for ten minutes, interacting with each app as a typical person might, and keeping track of all of the data that was transmitted or stored in the process.
"This is an incredibly important study that clears demonstrates that many apps for children are violating Coppa at a massive scale", said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood.
However, they "do not mean to show definitive legal liability, nor do we offer legal advice", and rather just want to highlight "potential COPPA rule violations". These apps, which had 172 million downloads combined, were games like Fun Kid Racing and Motocross Kids - Winter Storm. In January this year, Google deleted 60 apps from Google Play store which were allowing pornographic content to be accessed by kids.
However, it's up to organisations like the FTC to actually hold the app developers accountable.
Egelman denied that claim, and said that even if it were true, it wasn't relevant to the study.
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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.
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.
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The report states that a whopping 40 percent of the selected applications accessed and shared this data without properly implementing security measures to protect their users. Just for kicks, the artist also included the new Google Pixel 2018's Pixel Launcher revamp that we uncovered.
It connects your device to an offsite secure server and uses an encrypted connection to keep your data safe on that connection.