Google Removes Three Children's Apps From Play Store For Data Privacy Violations
Android has millions of users around the world, and a percentage of those users are children. When it comes to making apps for kids, developers have to abide by government rules like the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as well as Google’s own rules. When apps do not follow these rules to the letter, they get reported and swiftly removed from the Android app store, like Princess Salon, Number Coloring, and Cats & Cosplay have.
These three apps have become the center of attention after a nonprofit digital watchdog, International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC), found the apps breaking the rules. The apps could have been potentially accessing Android IDs and Android Advertising ID, which would have been leaked out through each app’s SDK, such as Unity.
This possible data leakage goes against Google’s policies for apps targeted to children, and a spokesperson for Google said as much, stating that “Whenever we find an app that violates our policies, we take action.” The three apps, which had over 20 million downloads, were removed from the Google app store. IDAC president, Quentin Palfrey, says that the policy breaches were reason to worry, stating, “The practices we observed in our research raised serious concerns about data practices within these apps.”
This is not the first time, and likely will not be the last, when apps for children come up in headlines. In 2018, it was estimated that thousands of apps were improperly tracking children and serving target ads. As is now, it was thought that third-party SDK configurations lead to violations. In any case, keep an eye on HotHardware as we wait to see if any more apps come up soon as many apps use Unity and other third-party SDKs.