Publicado: Mar, Abril 17, 2018
Ciencia | Por Aurelio Ontiveros

Thousands Of Creeper Android Apps Are Improperly Tracking Children According To Study

Thousands of free, popular children's apps available on the Google Play Store could be violating child privacy laws, according to a new, large-scale study, highlighting growing criticism of Silicon Valley's data collection efforts.

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 U.S. privacy laws that protect children under 13 from invasive data collection. They focused on potential violations of COPPA which does not allow for apps to collect data from children under the age of 13 and then share them for ad-targetting and profiling purposes.

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. The study also found that 40 percent of the apps transmitted information without using proper security measures. But it is the location tracking that might be most concerning to parents.

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. The study here covers the data tracking activities of about 6,000 apps that are aimed at children, including Disney's Where's My Water, Gameloft's Minion Rush and Duolingo, an app to learn languages on your smartphone, reports the Washington Post.

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Disney, Gameloft and Duolingo did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, there are still some gray areas under COPPA and some of the apps included in the research may not legally be subject to it since the law applies to online services "directly targeted" to children under 13 or they may have "actual knowledge" that their users are under 13. "However, as our results show, there appears to not be any (or only limited) enforcement", the researchers said.

For Korea, where more than 90 percent of the population uses mobile devices running on Google's Android operating system, Google Play dominates the app marketplace ecosystem.

"Google has basically looked the other way while it was able to generate revenues off of children's apps", said Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

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