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Many children's apps in Google Play Store have privacy issues

07.03.2023
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A major study has found that most of the children's apps available in the Google Play Store may violate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), aims to regulate the activities of websites and online operators by enforcing a number of requirements for the online safety of children under the age of 13.

The group's study, which examined the 500 most popular children's apps available in the Google Play store, focusing on the apps' privacy policies and the personal information that may be collected, found that:

  • 20% of the apps are collecting data without having a comprehensive, child-specific privacy policy in place against COPPA’s regulations
  • 27% of the apps found guilty of privacy violation claim that their service is not meant for children despite being within the “Everyone” age category on the Google play store
  • 9% of the apps don’t collect users’ personal information themselves but work with third parties
  • 38% of all the apps that violate COPPA are classed as “educational”.

COPPA requires apps to go through an additional level of review before they can receive a teacher-approved badge. The reviews are to be conducted by teachers and professionals who will evaluate the app based on several areas, such as design quality, age appropriateness, appeal to children, etc., before certifying it as suitable for children. With these regulations in place, the study found that 50% of the sites examined with "teacher approved" badges failed to comply with COPPA.

Despite Google's strong stance on enforcing COPPA by requiring every developer of children's apps to comply with the law, the study shows that Google may have fallen a little behind or had limited enforcement, hence the overwhelming findings.

In response to the findings, Google said: "We take the researchers' report very seriously and are looking into their findings.