Study Finds Thousands of Android Mobile Apps Improperly Track Children

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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 now available on the Google Play Store.

"This is a market failure", said Serge Egelman, a co-author of the study and the director of usable security and privacy research at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. They focused on potential violations of COPPA which does not allow for apps to collect data from children under the age of 13 and then share them for ad-targetting and profiling purposes.

"While many of these SDKs offer configuration options to respect COPPA by disabling tracking and behavioral advertising, our data suggest that a majority of apps either do not make use of these options or incorrectly propagate them across mediation SDKs".

In addition, the study states that 19 percent of the children's apps observed collected identifiers or other personally indentifiable information even though the SDKs they're built on outright prohibit doing so.

About 40 percent of apps transmitted info without using "reasonable security measures", and almost all 1,280 apps with Facebook tie-ins were not properly using the social network's code flags to limit under-13 use.

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Amid the ongoing Facebook data leak row, a new study has said that over 3000 apps on Google Play have been improperly collecting data on children.

Some of the apps in question included Disney's "Where's My Water?", Gameloft's Minion Rush and Duolingo, the language learning app.

Disney, Gameloft and Duolingo did not immediately respond to a request for comment. "Examining COPPA Compliance at Scale". So in the end, 57% of all the apps studied are actually potentially violating the law.

For Korea, where more than 90 percent of the population uses mobile devices running on Google's Android operating system, Google Play dominates the app marketplace ecosystem.

It is possible that some of the apps were not collecting data in ways that violate COPPA, as this was automated methods, but the researchers contest that the number of apps with tracking functions indicated that non-compliance was widespread. "The new, alarming report is further evidence that Google is thumbing its nose at the only federal online privacy law that we have".

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