Citing the International Computer Science Institute research (ICSI), it said that more than half of 5,855 Android apps on Google Play were potentially violating USA privacy laws that protect children under 13 from invasive data collection. The law in question is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was enacted in 1998 and brought into effect in 2000. "The rampant potential violations that we have uncovered points out basic enforcement work that needs to be done".
In addition, the study states that 19 percent of the children's apps observed collected identifiers or other personally indentifiable information even though the SDKs they're built on outright prohibit doing so. 40% of the apps also shared users' personal information without really applying security measures.
According to industry sources on Monday, Korea's FTC has begun surveying local mobile game companies to review whether they were pressured or asked by Google to either "launch their games only through specific app marketplaces", or to "not launch their games via other app marketplaces".
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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.
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.
It is possible that some of the apps were not collecting data in ways that violate COPPA, as this was automated methods, but the researchers contest that the number of apps with tracking functions indicated that non-compliance was widespread.
The report continues that third-party software development kits (SDKs) are largely to blame for the high proportion of apps potentially in violation of COPPA.
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The researchers note that Google has worked to enforce COPPA by requiring child-app developers to certify that they comply with the law. They added that it would not be hard for Google to augment their research to detect the apps and the developers that may be violating child privacy laws.
Google Korea said it could not provide official comment on this issue.
Out of the 5,855 Android apps that are included in the Designed for Families program of the Google Play Store, the study found that 28 percent of them "accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions", while an alarming 73 percent of the apps "transmitted sensitive data over the internet". Will Google be able to address the data privacy problem before it further escalates?
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