Published: Wed, April 18, 2018
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Google responds to report that Android apps are illegally tracking children's behavior

Google responds to report that Android apps are illegally tracking children's behavior

Each of the 5,855 apps under review was installed more than 750,000 times, on average, according to the study. The team found its results with an automatic test that detects how data is handled in Android apps.

Not to be outdone by Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a political data firm potentially skimmed the private data of around 87 million users or more, Google has been accused of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by allowing children to be tracked by thousands of Android apps.

In a further nod to its blatant iPhone X styling, Google also appears to have redesigned the Android P navigation bar - doing away with the current recent apps icon, altogether, while reconfiguring the Home button to embody a pill-shaped icon that's eerily similar (albeit much smaller) to the one on iPhone X.

About 40% of those apps then transmitted data without using basic security precautions like encryption, a problem that's more common than you'd think (especially in the internet of things gadget space). Further, the amount of at-risk data is likely higher, as the study notes that it didn't examine if TLS was used correctly, only checking if it was there or not. The solution? "Don't use apps", said Egelman.

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

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"This study, by the authors' own admission, does not claim to identify any actual violation of COPPA". After developing an automated testing tool, researchers scanned nearly 6,000 family- and child-oriented Android applications in Google Play to identify possible issues in their data privacy policy.

COPPA applies to children under the age of 13 and requires verifiable consent from a parent or guardian before personal information can be collected about a child.

"It's not a case here of not following the spirit of the law", he continued, "they don't seem to be following even its letter".

"Google has looked the other way while it surely could generate earnings from kids ' apps", Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of this Center for Digital Democracy, " informed the Washington Post.

Google's distribution numbers suggest that either a lot of people are simply ignoring the updates and using their phones with the older software, or that people are holding on to their older devices for longer, contrary to what the trends make us believe.

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