Study Finds Over 3300 Android Apps Have Been Tracking Kids

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The research was published on April 6, and will be presented at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium in July. CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the US Congress where he was tasked with responding to over 500 questions about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, data privacy among other topics.

The study's results are of concern for parents who think their children's data is protected, but in reality is not. Needless to say, those are red flags for any app targeted at kids.

Up to 235 apps were accessing the phone's Global Positioning System data - 184 of which transmitted the device's location to advertisers, according to the study.

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He said: "Fake mobile apps imitate the look or functionality of legitimate apps, such as banking or popular game apps, to trick users into downloading them". Some of the apps named in the report include KidzInMind, TabTale's "Pop Girls-High School Band", and Fun Kid Racing.

"Although we can not know the true number of children's apps in the Play Store, we believe that our results are representative, given that the apps that we examined represent the most popular free ones", the study, first spotted by Engadget, concluded.

One app developer that the team cited as "particularly egregious" is Tiny Lab, which had 82 apps tested - 81 of which "shared Global Positioning System coordinates with advertisers".

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"The researchers must have stated that they are over 13 while performing these simulations", he said. For instance, the back button won't be visible on the home screen.

Although the FTC did not explicitly state that they would investigate Google's abuse of market dominance, it seems that the FTC inquired whether or not Google committed unfair trade practices as the FTC caught some circumstantial evidence of Google's violations of law. Besides, 2,281 apps were also found transmitting Android Activities ID, which allows users to clear their history as well as other vital information in a way that could complete negating AAID privacy protection.

Scott Shackelford, associate professor of Business Law and Ethics at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, and Cybersecurity Program Chair, at IU-Bloomington told us "This important study highlights the sad fact that tech companies are simply not doing enough to comply with the regulatory requirements Congress has put into place to help protect vulnerable, and impressionable, kids". Overall, 5,855 children apps were analysed and around 57% of them i.e. 3337 family and child-oriented apps were violating COPPA as per survey reports.

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Google Play product manager Andrew Ahn wrote on the Android Developers Blog: "Famous titles get a lot of search traffic for particular keywords, so the bad actors try to amass installs leveraging such traffic". The security measure is the "standard method for securely transmitting information", the researchers said.

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