Google: These Google Play apps may be collecting kids’ data: Report

The age-appropriate design code also known as the children’s code laid down by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) outlines 15 standards that online services need to follow. This ensures that the apps and services that are aimed towards kids are complying with their obligations to protect children’s data online under the data protection law. According to a report by Independent, new research conducted by the consumer group Comparitech has discovered that nearly 25% of apps that are aimed at children on the Google Play store don’t comply with ICO’s age-appropriate design code.
During the research, the group studied 400 children’s apps available on the app store. The research found that nearly one in four apps violated the ICO’s guidelines in multiple ways and most of them did it by collecting the personal data of kids. Moreover, the apps that were collecting data also didn’t have a “comprehensive, child-specific privacy policy in place,” the report adds. Comparitech claimed that it conducted the study by choosing 50 apps from each of the individual app categories within the Google Play Store tab that is available for children.
Google Play apps collecting data from children’s apps in the UK
As per the research, most of the apps that were found to be violating the code were collecting the user’s IP addresses. However, in some cases, more data like the user’s name, address, online contact information, telephone number, or geolocation was found to be collected by some apps. The study also found that all the apps that were found violating the code were graded as “expert approved” by Google.
Read what Comparitech has to say
Rebecca Moody, the head of data research at Comparitech said, “Almost 25% of the apps we reviewed were found to violate the ICO’s guidelines in some way. The vast majority collected some kind of personal data without a clear and comprehensive section on children’s data protection within their privacy policy. Perhaps even more concerning was that 5.5% of the apps we reviewed claimed not to be targeted toward children, despite being featured within the child-specific section on Google Play and sometimes featuring the word ‘kids’ in the app name.”

Read what UK’s ICO has to say
Another spokesperson from ICO said, “The children’s code makes clear that children are not like adults online, and their data needs greater protections. We want children to be online, learning, playing and experiencing the world, but with the right protections in place to do so that reflect their best interests. All online services likely to be accessed by children must conform with the children’s code to be compliant with data protection legislation. It applies to all companies who will process data on UK children. We will investigate when evidence suggests that online services are not complying with their responsibilities to protect children outlined by the code or wider data protection law.”
Google’s reply to Comparitech’s study
While replying to the research, Google revealed that it is investigating the study’s methodology and findings of the report. A person from the tech giant said, “Google Play takes the protection of children on its platform seriously. Play has policies and processes in place to help protect children on our platform and has invested significant resources into related features. Apps that target children must comply with our Google Play families policy, which requires developers to adhere to all relevant laws and all of Play’s developer programme policies, plus imposes additional privacy, monetisation and content restrictions like prohibiting access to precise location data. Developers are responsible for ensuring their apps are compliant with all relevant laws and appropriate for their target audiences, including children.”

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