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Over Half of Android Apps Violating COPPA

Apr 17, 2018
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A new report just came out which showed that over half of all Android apps are in violation of COPPA, which is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. In order to be in violation of COPPA, the apps had to be directed at someone under the age of 13. The study was led by the researchers over at the International Computer Science Institute. If you have a child, you might be interested in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Read on to learn more about the study regarding Android apps violating COPPA.

Thousands of Android Apps in Violation of COPPA

When it comes to the study, it was put out by the researchers over at the International Computer Science Institute. These researchers studied apps that were geared towards children under the age of 13. All of the apps that the study found to be in violation were also part of the Google Designed for Families Program. This program is supposed to not share data or collect data. The primary purpose of these apps are for people under the age of 13. More than 5,855 different Android apps on Google Play Store were looked at for this study. There were quite a few trends and violations that were found when looking at these apps.

The results of the study showed that 4.8 percent of the total apps looked at had a definite clear violation of COPPA. This included things such as sharing contact information without getting consent and also gathering location information. When it comes to sharing the identifiers for the advertisement targeting, 18 percent shared this information. Around 40 percent of the apps had shared various personal information without going through the correct security protocols. Even worse, 39 percent of apps had disregarded the obligations that were aimed at solely protecting the privacy of children. The obligations were contractual, which makes this even worse.

Several Apps Were Named in COPPA Violations Report

The researchers put together a COPPA violations report, and there were several apps that were named in the study. 73 percent of apps did transmit some sensitive data through the Internet. 28 percent of apps did also access the sensitive data that was supposed to be protected by various Android permissions.

Some of those apps that were named to be in violation of COPPA included Fun Kid Racing, Pop Girls- High School Band, and KidzInMind. The main problem is that Google does not seem to be enforcing the rules when it comes to the Designed for Families program. The developers are given the information about COPPA, including how the developers should maintain compliance with the rules.

The SDKs are also part of the problem, although not quite as bad. The report mostly thought that these privacy intrusions were more of a misunderstanding. The third-party SDKs often times do contain privacy violations. It would appear for the SDKs, it was an unintentional violation. Both developers and the SDKs do have reasons to ignore the privacy rules, with most of them being financial. Obviously, the more data that is collected means the more money coming in for revenue. COPPA has been around a long time, even if you have not heard about it before. It was founded back in 1999 by Congress, and it was supposed to be there to protect the privacy of all children online.

COPPA Revised & Many Companies Still Did Not Comply

In 2013, the FTC went back and revised COPPA to include other information such as IP addresses, geo-location markers, and said third-party advertisers also have to comply with these rules. Disney was part of a lawsuit last year, which had to do with 42 apps that were violating COPPA. YouTube also had a claim filed against the company last month, which had to do with selling off the information of those users that were underage.

It seems to be a pretty common problem, especially in the world of apps and third-party apps and developers. We want to know what you think of COPPA and if it is really helping keep children safe. Do you think Google could do more to enforce the rules of COPPA on the app developers? Knowing how many of the Designed for Families apps are in violation of the rules, do you look at this program differently?