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18 April 2018, 12:50 | Brenda Erickson
Thousands of Android Apps Improperly Tracking Kids' Activities
This data is meant for developers so they can create and update their apps according to which Android versions are the most popular, but they also give enthusiasts like us a glimpse into how quickly OEMs are adopting the latest and greatest the platform has to offer.
"We identiﬁed several concerning violations and trends", wrote the authors of the Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, led by researchers at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, approximately 1,200 apps are linked with Facebook, of which more than 90 percent apps are not properly configured to protect children under the age of 13. In particular, they were curious about how apps aimed at kids comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which strictly controls what information can be collected from children. However, it is the first time that Palestinians have been targeted with Android spyware all thanks to a fake Facebook page. "We also observed that 73% of the tested applications transmitted sensitive data over the internet", the study found.
Children's apps typically have different standards of tracking data.
Some of the apps in question included Disney's "Where's My Water?", Gameloft's Minion Rush, and Duolingo, the language learning app.
A study out of the University of California, Berkeley found that thousands of Android apps directed at children under 13, are potentially violating law U.S. law by collecting and sharing their data. "Overall, roughly 57% of the 5,855 child-directed apps that we analysed are potentially violating Coppa".
The researchers note that Google has worked to enforce COPPA by requiring child-app developers to certify that they comply with the law. But they said "as our results show, there appears to not be any (or only limited) enforcement". In fact, NCsoft's Lineage M and Netmarble's Lineage 2 Revolution, which ranked first and second in sales of mobile games past year, were released in Google'sPlay Store and Apple's App Store but not in One Store.
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We contacted Google for comment but the search giant has yet to respond.
Furthermore, it says Google's efforts to limit tracking by using resettable advertising IDs are largely ineffective. The Recent apps tab will be replaced with the "Home" pill, which is said to be doing double duty. Will Google be able to address the data privacy problem before it further escalates?
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