Study finds over 3300 Android apps improperly tracking kids

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Researchers have discovered over 3,000 Android apps for kids on the Google Play Store that improperly collect data, which should raise an alarm for parents around the world. After testing 1.8 million apps, he found nearly 20,000 featured built-in passwords and keys, and even when a separate password store was used, user data was still open to attack from simple password crackers. It triggered a chain reaction where lawmakers, as well as the population at large, started scrutinising how tech companies are collecting and using information on them. YouTube, which Google also owns, was is the subject of a complaint filed earlier this month in which privacy groups said it was also violating COPPA.

The developers of the most popular kid's game Fun Kid Racing, Tiny Lab Productions explained that the apps are directed to parents and not to children.

The law requires explicit parental consent. Needless to say, those are red flags for any app targeted at kids.

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The researchers conducted an "automatic evaluation of the privacy behaviors" of 5,855 Android apps which showed that 28% of them had access to sensitive data protected by Android permissions whereas 73% of the apps transmit sensitive data over the internet.

Geolocation data not only reveals where individuals live, but can also help infer socioeconomic scenarios, everyday habits, and health conditions, among others.

One development tool - Appinventor - was found to hardcode privacy keys in apps, although this is something that has been addressed in an update. "We observed that 81 of their 82 apps that we tested shared Global Positioning System coordinates with advertisers", the researchers stated in the report. Third-party services also have a responsibility to make sure they are not receiving children's information from integrated apps. As many as 39 percent were in violation of Google's terms of service that forbid sharing identifiers, and 40 percent shared personal information online without ensuring the data is secured. Some of these apps include KidzInMind, TabTale's Pop Girls-High School Band, and Fun Kid Racing.

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South Korea's Fair Trade Commission has reportedly begun investigating Google Play over allegations that the USA tech giant's mobile app marketplace abused its market position by pressuring local game publishers to initially launch new mobile games through Google Play only. In 2016, the ad network InMobi was fined Dollars 1 million for gathering the location of users - including children - without proper consent. Then, there were 2,281 apps transmitting Android Advertising IDs that Google directs the developers and SDKs to use as the sole persistent method of ad tracking.

The ransomware is able to execute commands to steal users' data, as well as send text messages to contacts without their knowledge.

That kid's app might be doing more than keeping your children busy, according to a new global study. "However, as our results show, there appears to not be any (or only limited) enforcement", the researchers said.

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