The study finds thousands of apps targeted to children were sending data to advertisers, some including Global Positioning System location.
The International Computer Science Institute published the study, titled 'Won't Somebody Think of the Children?' Examining COPPA Compliance at Scale, detailing that 3,337 applications could be breaking the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) through illegally tracking the data of minors.
Not only is this disturbing, it's likely illegal. In particular, the FTC is checking whether or not Google requested Korean game developers to release their games on Google's app store "Play Store" only.
According to the researchers, numerous apps might be breaching the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the USA, which is supposed to regulate how mobile apps, games and websites are allowed to collect and process personal information from children under the age of 13. In the United States, COPPA rules are meant to protect kids by restricting certain actions by online services directed to kids under 13. Out of the 1,280 apps that forced Facebook integration, 92 percent of them failed to protect the data of users under the age of 13.
The study found the majority of the 5,855 apps in potential violation of COPPA.
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The study's results are of concern for parents who think their children's data is protected, but in reality is not. Some of the apps named in the report include KidzInMind, TabTale's "Pop Girls-High School Band", and Fun Kid Racing.
Amongst the many concerning findings was that almost 256 apps collected the geolocation data, 107 apps shared the email address of the device owner, and 10 apps shared phone numbers. Another developer, BabyBus, has 37 apps that were sending out the names of Wi-Fi hotspots and the now connected Wi-Fi access point (which can potentially be used to determine location).
Activists have been pressuring the Federal Trade Commission in the recent months to take action against a number of large corporations they allege are illegally directing ad-targeting tools at children, including YouTube and Disney.
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