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Study discovers thousands of Google Play apps that are improperly tracking children

By midian182 · 14 replies
Apr 16, 2018
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  1. Following Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, tech companies are putting a renewed focus on user privacy. But a new study suggests that thousands of apps in the Google Play store are potentially violating US laws by collecting an excessive amount of data from kids.

    A team of university researchers and scientists using an “automatic evaluation of the privacy behaviors of Android apps,” diagnosed 5855 apps in the Play Store that are designed for families and children. 28 percent of these “accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions,” 73 percent of the applications “transmitted sensitive data over the internet,” and 40 percent shared personal information without applying reasonable security measures.

    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.

    Some of the worst offenders were the 281 apps that collected contact or geolocation data without asking for a parent's permission. There were also 1100 apps that shared persistent identifying info with third parties for restricted purposes such as ad targeting. Additionally, 39 percent of all those tested showed “ignorance or disregard for contractual obligations aimed at protecting children’s privacy.”

    “While accessing a sensitive resource or sharing it over the internet does not necessarily mean that an app is in violation of Coppa, none of these apps attained verifiable parental consent: if the [automated testing] was able to trigger the functionality, then a child would as well,” explained the researchers.

    As noted by Engadget, with over 2700 apps arriving on Google Play’s store every day, manually reviewing each one is an impossible task, though some developers may not realize they are potentially violating COPPA rules. It’s possible that the automated tool used in the study could help analyze the app submissions.

    Permalink to story.

  2. tipstir

    tipstir TS Ambassador Posts: 2,842   +193

    This is not good for the industry. Why in the world do they want to track kids, bad enough they want to track the adults. So has it come down to where we go and what we do so they can promote and make money on use by offering deals we really don't want in the first place. There should be option to track or not to track?
    senketsu and ShagnWagn like this.
  3. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,864   +3,310

    A well placed law that equates this tracking to the same as stalking with the same degree of punishment might just be in order.
    senketsu, ShagnWagn and regiq like this.
  4. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 537   +369

    The option "do not track" in a browser means they can track you. The DNT identifier is just a suggestion to a website owner. It is not and cannot be enforced.

    What these companies shoving advertisements in my face don't know, is that I boycott them for it. If you shove an advertisement in my face, then I will avoid buying your product. Not to mention you are directly costing me money by artificially and exponentially inflating my data usage. And also my time by having to skip through your crap. How much have people's lives been lost by the constant TV advertisements all these decades? Consider 10-15 minutes of a 30 minute program... that is a lot of productivity lost. Screw em.
  5. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 630   +403

    Oh Android again. Google is a forefront to privacy and security lapses. An example is the youtube kids app. You must accept the terms if you want to use the filter/blocking feature.
  6. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 537   +369

    I presume you are a drone apple fanatic? No, of course there is nothing ever on an iphone that could be considered privacy invasion... I'm sure that facebook version for iphone doesn't either... /s Of course those same people are the ones who freely give up their information so they get "free" win10...
  7. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 630   +403

    So you are a droidless fanatic? So are we going to discuss how facebook is doing. Oh come on. Youve got to be better than this if you want to start with me. The google apps store is managed by kids.
  8. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 537   +369

    droidless? you mean without droid? interesting comment. anyway, I've had both. iphone is far below the android and is clumsy to use. iphones are basically for people that can only use a single mouse button like the apple days of old. more than one button and you are unable to function. lol. I can also comment that macs also tie your hands together on any kind of customization. windows is superior in many ways. linux even moreso. although I stopped caring about macs many years ago. perhaps apple users have more than one brain cell now?

    managed by kids? that is great - showing it is so easy that kids can even do it. here I thought you were being a google app store hater. kudos to you.
  9. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,827   +1,112

    Gee, a piece of software is tracking people...who'd thunk it?
    Google, Facebook, CIA, FBI, China...
  10. hqxt1964

    hqxt1964 TS Member Posts: 56   +17

    Karl Marx had revealed more than a hundred years ago that as long as there was a 10% profit, it would be used everywhere. 20% of you will be active; There's a 50% chance of a positive adventure; If you have 100%, you're going to make people disregard all laws; 300% of the time, people are not afraid of crime, even the danger of being hanged.
  11. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,514   +3,699

    Actually, it's not quite that bad. There's about 7 or 8 minutes of ads against a half hour show, and 14 to 17 minutes against an hour show. I will say the bigger the hit show, the more ads cost, and possibly the longer they run.

    That being said, that's why on the 9th day, man invented the mute button. (He invented TV on the 8th day, and found out he couldn't stand it. Hence the need for the 9th day correction). And well, TV ads won't infect your TV. (At least not as of yet).

    I went out of my way to buy a "dumb" 4K TV for myself for Christmas, just in case. Hooking a TV to the internet is just asking for trouble.
  12. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,208   +4,873

    That is a new one. Watching TV is productivity but watching ads is not. This must be the perspective of TV actors and actresses. They would make twice as much if we not for those darn TV Ads. Just imagine how productive they would be if they had a full hour to work in.
  13. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,514   +3,699

    Well, they sure wouldn't be dragging down those $1,000,000 an episode paychecks either, now would they?

    Sometimes they give actors as much as two hours to works with! They call those things which sometimes seem to drag on forever, "movies".
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
  14. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 537   +369

    How incredibly short-sighted. I guess you fill your brain with junk TV? If I do even care to watch TV, it is for science, nature, history, and car restoration shows. You know, things that you can learn and expand knowledge from. May be a foreign subject to you. What do you watch? Care Bears? SMH
  15. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,208   +4,873

    No not shortsighted at all. In fact what you suggest can also be attributed to watching commercials.

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