Android Apps Found to Improperly Track Kids

Samsung Galaxy S8 Infinity display

Samsung Galaxy S8 Infinity display

That kid's app might be doing more than keeping your children busy, according to a new worldwide study.

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. YouTube, which Google also owns, was is the subject of a complaint filed earlier this month in which privacy groups said it was also violating COPPA. Pretty much the only way to tell whether or not an app illegally stored data was to simply scan through its source code and look for red flags.

COPPA, a law approved in 1998 and revised in 2003, prohibits applications from collecting the private information of children under 13 without a parent's specific consent.

If you have a better understanding of how good your children really are with computers and technology, then you will be better able to teach them about how to be safe online.

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"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.

"One particularly egregious example is app developer TinyLab". 81 of TinyLab's apps shared Global Positioning System coordinates with advertisers. Google gives Android away to other smartphone makers for free, and has more lenient restrictions for its App Store than Apple's. The study also found that 40% of these apps shared personal information without proper security protocols, and 39% disregarded contractual obligations aimed at protecting children's privacy.

The second one is the change of shape of navigation button which is available as pill-shaped and it is not evident whether it acts as a button or just for swipe up to home 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. Some of the apps named in the report include KidzInMind, TabTale's "Pop Girls-High School Band", and Fun Kid Racing.

The Federal Trade Commission cracked down on the Singapore-based company InMobi two years ago for doing something very similar. In 2016, the ad network InMobi was fined United States dollars 1 million for gathering the location of users - including children - without proper consent. Using a Nexus 5X phone, researchers downloaded top apps targeted toward kids from November 2016 to March 2018, running them for about 10 minutes to simulate an actual user. Developers are required to only use that ID as a way to track data on users.

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