Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Over 3000 free Android apps violate kids' USA privacy law

Over 3300 Android Apps on Google Play Store Are Improperly Tracking Kids Thousands of Android Apps Improperly Tracking Kids' Activities
Sherry Houston | 17 April, 2018, 20:33

Although some potentially violate the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting more data than the law stipulates, legal action may not be in the cards under the current law, even though it limits data collection for kids under 13. So they designed an automatic tool that evaluates apps based on their use of third-party software development kits, or SDKs.

"We identiļ¬ed 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. "The rampant potential violations that we have uncovered points out basic enforcement work that needs to be done".

About 40% of the apps were found sharing personal information without implementing reasonable security measures and 18.8% were guilty of sharing persistent identifiers with third parties for prohibited purposes. "We also observed that 73% of the tested applications transmitted sensitive data over the internet", the study found.

Unfortunately for parents, there's little consumers can do to protect themselves since the policies and business practices of app developers and ad-tracking companies are often opaque, Egelman said. The researcher suggested that leaving passwords in the apps is lax behavior on the part of the developer, but some are better than others in muddying the practice.

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

Whatever the response, the findings illustrate the challenges that Google and officials face in enforcing COPPA and similar child-focused privacy laws.

"These problems are rampant, and it's resulting in kids being exposed to targeted advertising and automatic profiling that could be illegal", said Serge Egelman, co-author of the report and director of usable security and privacy research at ICSI.

According to the researchers, numerous apps might be breaching the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the USA, 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. Just for kicks, the artist also included the new Google Pixel 2018's Pixel Launcher revamp that we uncovered.

Google has already disclosed that the software will add standardised platform support for another iPhone X-inspired feature, the "notch" used by some newer all-screen Android devices, which allows the screen to wrap around front-facing sensors. But it's easy to forget that Facebook is far from the only company collecting our data, or that any American under 13 is supposed to have strict privacy protections.

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