Android developers potentially violating child privacy laws

Audrey Hill
April 18, 2018

The US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa) was put in place in order to make sure that children browsing online are not treated with the same careless datamining outlook as those applied to adults.

"This really is a market failure", Serge Egelman, " a co author of this examine as well as the director of usable privacy and security investigation at the International Computer Science Institute at UCBerkeley, informed the Washington Post. And now, Facebook has come out with a detailed response to relevant questions about the information the company receives from other websites and apps, how Facebook uses that data, and the options users have.

The researchers also said that almost half of the apps fail to always use standard security measures to transmit sensitive data over the Web, suggesting a breach of reasonable data security measures mandated by Coppa. The rampant potential violations we have uncovered point out basic enforcement work that needs to be done.

Each of the 5,855 apps under review was installed more than 750,000 times, on average, according to the study.

To source this data, Google tracks the Android versions of any devices accessing the Play Store over the course of a 7-day period.

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In a further nod to its blatant iPhone X styling, Google also appears to have redesigned the Android P navigation bar - doing away with the current recent apps icon, altogether, while reconfiguring the Home button to embody a pill-shaped icon that's eerily similar (albeit much smaller) to the one on iPhone X. The fact that these apps are also part of the Designed for Families program by Google reflects very badly for the company, as well.

The researchers noted that Google has worked to enforce Coppa by requiring developers of children's apps to certify that they comply with the law.

Other details revealed include the presence of a new "contextual back button", which the publication explained will hide and reveal itself in certain situations based on whether it's needed.

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.

The study also discovered that 1,100 of these apps (that's 18.8 percent) send data using a software development kit that is not meant to be used with kids apps, and whose terms of service forbid it. Protecting children's online privacy is extremely important to us and people have been convinced this law is adhered to by our clinicsenforcement.

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