Thousands of popular Android apps are covertly tracking kids, study finds

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An automated system was made use of researchers from the International Computer Science Institute to find out if the apps met with the regulations of the COPPA law meant to protect children. 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).

Around 4.8% of the apps studied were in clear violation of sharing location or contact information without consent, while 18% shared identifiers for target advertising.

According to the researchers, numerous apps might be breaching the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the U.S., which is supposed to regulate how mobile apps, games and websites are allowed to collect and process personal information from children under the age of 13.

Thousands of the tested apps collected the personal data of children under the age of 13 without their parents' permission, the study found.

This is a market failure.

DR SERGE EGELMAN, a co-author of the study and the director of usable security and privacy research at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

The apps targeted at children, were downloaded 750,000 times, on an average. Recently Google has taken a step forward and has released the Google AIY projects app on the official Play Store market.

As the analysis notes, the Designed for Families program is still an "rdquo & discretionary review procedure; that allows developers to list apps that are compliant under areas and hierarchical classes". Popular examples include the language learning app Duolingo, the infinite running game Minion Rush and the Disney puzzle game Where's My Water?.

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How do you have difficulties limiting what your children can access online? However, researchers could not verify the same for iOS apps, most likely due to the closed loop nature of Apple's ecosystem.

Disney, Gameloft and Duolingo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"However, as our results show, there appears to not be any (or only limited) enforcement", the researchers said.

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.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

In other news, Facebook still tracks users even if they're logged out of the social network.

Google Go operates on devices running Android v4.3 (Jelly Bean) and above and will be available in 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

This is also far from being the only case to have been a violation of Coppa, The Verge reports.

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