A slew of apps are creepily spying on our kids

A slew of apps are creepily spying on our kids

The app world is coming for your kids.

Nearly one in five of the most popular free children- and family-oriented apps in the Google Play store improperly collects “identifiers or other personally identifiable information,” a study has found.

The study, which analyzed 5,855 apps, found that 281 — or about 5 percent — collect contact or location data without first seeking parent approval.

The data collection may mean the app developers have run afoul of federal regulations, researchers from three universities said in the study.

The researchers, from UC Berkeley, the University of British Columbia and Stony Brook University, said the apps could be violating 1999’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

The study stressed violations would be judged by the Federal Trade Commission.

Still, the study could put parents on edge about what apps their children are using.

“This study has just given the FTC hundreds of companies that they could be going after right now,” Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, told The Post.

“I think that if there was better and more regular enforcement, that it could change the industry,” added.

Twenty-eight percent of the apps studied bypassed Android permissions to access “sensitive data,” the study found, while 73 percent of the apps in question collected “sensitive data.” The worst offenders were apps that collected users’ geolocation information.

“Geolocation data not only reveals where individuals live, but could also enable inferences about their socioeconomic classes, everyday habits, and health conditions, among others,” the study reads.

COPPA was designed to protect the privacy of children and requires websites and apps to obtain a parent’s permission before collecting the private information of a user under the age of 13.

The team, which only studies open-source Android apps, found a majority of the potential COPPA violations stemmed from lazy app-building.

One app developer that the team cited as “particularly egregious” is Tiny Lab, which had 82 apps tested — 81 of which “shared GPS coordinates with advertisers.”

Josh Golin of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said the research points to a clear need for better COPPA enforcement.

Golin said he hopes the research spurs parents to think twice before downloading apps for kids.

The study comes a week after a group of privacy and children’s advocacy groups, including the CCFC, filed an FTC complaint against YouTube, arguing that Google’s video platform was illegally collecting personal data from children.

Google, in a statement, said it takes the study seriously.

“Protecting kids and families is a top priority, and our Designed for Families program requires developers to abide by specific requirements above and beyond our standard Google Play policies,” a spokesperson for the tech giant said. “If we determine that an app violates our policies, we will take action.”

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