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Thousands of Android apps are unlawfully tracking children according to new study

Other | Tuesday 17th April 2018 | David

In case you need another reason to be paranoid about the level of data we’re routinely putting online, the International Computer Science Institute have allegedly found that the majority of free apps targeted at children are breaking US laws by tracking the data of young users.

In a study of 5,855 apps, over half were purportedly in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law that regulates the collection of data from users who are under 13 years old. Up to 235 of these apps were even said to be unlawfully accessing the GPS data of user devices, 184 of which allegedly transmitted the phone’s location to advertisers.

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While the report notes that “many privacy violations are unintentional and caused by misunderstandings of third-party SDKs (Software Development Kits),” the researchers also stressed the need for Google to take a more active role in ensuring that child-targeted apps in their Play Store are in compliance with COPPA regulations.

The news comes on the heels of complaints levied earlier this month against YouTube from privacy and child protection groups, accusing the streaming site of violating COPPA by collecting the data of child users. Between these revelations and Facebook’s ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s clear that the age-old debates on internet privacy and the handling of online information are returning to the forefront.

As the technology that fills our everyday lives continues to evolve at an ever-quickening pace, the challenge becomes all the greater that our understanding of this technology – along with the laws that stem from this understanding – is keeping up with the times.

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