A new report finds more than 3,000 kid-friendly apps on the Google Play store aren’t friendly at all when it comes to the privacy of the children who use them on a daily basis.
Who is not protecting the privacy of your kids?
The research, published in the journal Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, exposes the shady underbelly of the squeaky clean world of kids apps.
Researchers tested nearly 6,000 apps and found 3,337 kid- and family-focused apps — some by major developers including Disney and Turner — wrongly collecting kids’ data.
That could potentially put the apps in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which is designed to limit data collection for kids under 13.
So what specifically were the apps’ infractions here?
Three popular apps in particular from developer TinyLab — Fun Kid Racing, Fun Kid Racing-Motocross and Motocross Kids-Winter Sports — all share your child’s GPS coordinates with advertisers, according to researchers.
Meanwhile, apps from other developers could potentially access your son or daughter’s location by different means other than GPS coordinates.
For example, Yousician’s “Guitar Tuner Free—GuitarTuna” and TabTale’s “Pop Girls’High School Band” both use a process called Wi-Fi Router Geolocation to access location in violation of COPPA laws.
Meanwhile, an analysis of the terms of service and privacy policies of several other apps found they likely use “persistent identifiers” to locate users across services for the purpose of serving relevant ads. Apps in this category include Duolingo, Gameloft’s Minion Rush and Disney’s Where’s My Water.
Finally, other apps were flagged as problematic for a variety of reasons — mostly related to location sharing. These include:
- FamilyTime Parental Controls & Time Management App
- NFL Draft
- NFL Emojis
- Rail Rush
The best solution here may be to remove these apps from your kids’ phone or to make sure they know not to download these apps and others mentioned in Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies in the first place.
Money expert Clark Howard believes parents have the ultimate responsibility to control and know what their kids are doing with technology.
“That’s why my wife and I insist that there be no TVs or computers in our kids’ rooms. The children are only allowed to go online and watch TV in common areas where they can be monitored,” Clark says.