After reports of violation of privacy policies, Google has removed three popular apps from Google Play Store. This comes amid concerns over the collection and misuse of online data.
The number of children’s apps available has more than doubled in the last five years. However, this has triggered an array of concerns, including the collection of minor’s personal information.
In this case, the apps that have been removed are Cats & Cosplay, Number Coloring, and Princess Salon. These have been incredibly popular with kids, with downloads reaching over 20 million collectively before their removal.
What are the concerns?
According to the International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC), these apps do not meet the requirements set out in the “broader Google Play policies around data collection.” As they are aimed at children, Google has quickly removed them from its store after being notified.
In a statement, the IDAC chairman added, “The practices we observed in our research raised serious concerns about data practices within these apps. We applaud Google for taking steps to enforce on these apps and the third-party data practices within these apps.”
Researchers from the watchdog highlighted problems found within these apps, which collect ID data from Android devices. The software itself, which is a version of Unity SDK, was considered problematic, as it violates Google privacy protection regulations. No issues were found with the iOS versions of any of the apps.
The IDAC also found that “collecting both the user’s AAID [unique user ID for advertising] and Android ID simultaneously, which may have allowed Unity to bypass privacy controls and track users over time and across devices.”
How has Google responded?
As pointed out in the IDAC statement, “Google took corrective action in response, after its own investigation,” but it’s not clear how much data had already been collected by the apps as no estimates have been provided by Google or the app developers.
Google said in a statement that, “These apps broke rules barring the uses of developer kits that aren’t approved for ‘child-directed services,” it has made the decision to remove them from its platforms.
It also said it will implement new security measures in future. These will aim to pick up potential issues with apps before they are added to the Google Play store. It will also be working with its partners to prevent other developers from breaking its privacy rules.