Thousands of Apps Improperly Tracking Kids, Study Finds

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Will Google be able to address the data privacy problem before it further escalates? The study did not examine data collection found in iOS apps.

The study's authors claim that none of the apps in question attained "verifiable parental consent" for accessing or sharing this private information, which constitutes a violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the US.

"Based on our automated analysis of 5,855 of the most popular free children's apps, we found that a majority are potentially in violation of COPPA, mainly due to their use of third-party SDKs". All told, 40 percent of apps included in the research had passed on info without taking "reasonable" security measures.

In addition, 92 percent of the 1,280 apps that were linked to Facebook did not properly use the social network's system to restrict users under 13 years old.

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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 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, now limits data collection for children under the age of 13, though it's up to the Federal Trade Commission to determine what extent of data collection violates that law.

What is clear, however, is that collecting children's data is a widespread problem among Android apps for kids in the Google Play Store. Since Google I/O coming up in a few weeks, it likely won't be long until this mystery is resolved.

At the start of the year, a Google Streetview mini-game inside the firm's developer lab included a cryptic image of a pineapple cake, while a tweet about the company's developer conference in May - known as Google I/O - saw the logo turn into something that looked awfully like a pineapple.