Thousands Of Creeper Android Apps Are Improperly Tracking Children According To Study

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Google Play Store allegedly littered with apps that can harvest data about children

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.

Privacy experts have analyzed 5,855 child-directed Android apps and have found that more than half -57%- are potentially violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a U.S. law protecting children's private data online.

On other hand, activists from last few months are continuously pressuring the Federal Trade Commission to take action against a number of big corporations, who are illegally directing ad-targeting tools at children, including Disney and YouTube.

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Using an automated testing methodology, researchers found 3,337 child and family-oriented apps were collecting data about children they should not be.

More than 2,200 apps were claimed to be breaching Google's terms of service with regards to sharing "persistent identifiers", whereby information over time can be associated with individual users over time and across apps, platforms and devices. All told, 40 percent of apps included in the research had passed on info without taking "reasonable" security measures. A whopping 92 percent of Facebook-linked apps failed to hinder use by children under the age of 13.

All this looks exceedingly dodgy, but there's more to the situations than meets the eye.

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Then there's the problem with ensuring children are honest with how old they are when accessing apps and that they do indeed seek the permission of parents when prompted.

Around 57 percent of the tested apps could be violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which restricts data collection for children under 13.

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