A new study finds thousands of apps are tracking kids. Now what?

17 April, 2018, 17:20 | Author: Sammy Rose
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The study's results are of concern for parents who think their children's data is protected, but in reality is not. It followed the FTC's requirement of "verifiable consent", which meant that developers had to take steps to ensure that people knew what information they were giving up.

While everyone's in an uproar about Facebook accounts getting skimmed for data, a new study claims that thousands of Android apps are in breach of standards for monitoring kids' behavior online. The study found that many of these apps targeted to kids were violating that law.

The study also analyzed how the apps are transferring the data and found out that 40% of the apps failed to do it securely. What's surprising though is that numerous older versions like Android Lollipop (5.0 and 5.1) still hold a combined market share of 22.9 percent, and Android KitKat, which was released nearly five years ago, still powers 10.5 percent of the devices.

"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. The app's developers, Tiny Lab Productions, said in an email that its apps are "directed for families", and not children, because "we see that grownups and teens plays our games". "We observed that 81 of their 82 apps that we tested shared Global Positioning System coordinates with advertisers", the researchers stated in the report. You can find the rest of the numbers in the image above, but it's worth noting older Android versions like Lollipop, KitKat and JellyBean have had their percentages decreased, while Nougat's market share increased a bit. Some of the apps named in the report include KidzInMind, TabTale's "Pop Girls-High School Band", and Fun Kid Racing.

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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.

Researchers said that based on their analysis, most applications didn't break COPPA directly, but mainly due to the inclusion of software development kits (SDKs), which often collected this data automatically for the SDK makers, sometimes without the parent app collecting any data at all. 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.

Josh Golin of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said the research points to a clear need for better COPPA enforcement.

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