The Digital Threat

Times have changed. One of the results of technological revolution has been our largely changed habits. The nature of advanced options we have at our disposal these days have altered our mental makeup, and consequentially how we go about even the most basic things. These similar habits are now getting passed on to the next generation as well. Kids these days show little to no interest in outdoor activities. Much of their time is exhausted on video games whether through gaming consoles or mobile phones. This complete abandonment of outdoor games partnered with playing violent video games for extended hours already spells a defined set of troubles, but things might be even worse beneath the surface. Information relating to your kids is being picked up by different websites, and this is happening on a much larger scale than you can even imagine.

According to an analysis conducted by Comparitech, where they reviewed privacy policy of each app on Google Play, over 20% of top 500 kids’ mobile apps are collecting user data in a manner that violates Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The researchers went on to reveal another concerning statistical finding, which stated that over 492 million users have already downloaded these apps.

COPPA, set up by Federal Trade Commission, is an act specifically designed to regulate online apps and websites that have kids under the age of 13 as their target audience. COPPA necessitates these online service providers to provide notice of their data collection practices and obtain parental consent before gathering any data. Nevertheless, following the research, it was learned that much of these requirements were not being met. Majority of these apps don’t even have a child-specific section in their privacy policy. This means that children’s data is collected and used as per the same basis as the adult data.

What further complicates the issue is that a good chunk of the apps that violate kids’ privacy policy have successfully managed to get what Google likes to call the ‘teacher approval’. This makes FTC question Google’s review policies even more. As of now, FTC is considering its options. The commission has a history of not hesitating in handing out stringent penalties, so it remains to be seen how this story unfolds.

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