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YouTube illegally collecting data on children: Protection groups

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KATHMANDU — Just days after Facebook data scandal, a coalition of 23 child advocacy,consumer and privacy groups have accused You Tube that the world’s largest video sharing site has been collecting data and that even of children.

The groups have filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission alleging that Google is violating child protection laws by collecting personal data of and advertising to those aged under 13, The Guardian reported.

The group, which includes the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Center for Digital Democracy and 21 other organisations, alleges that despite Google claiming that YouTube is only for those aged 13 and above, it knows that children under that age use the site.

The group states that Google collects personal information on children under 13 such as location, device identifiers and phone numbers and tracks them across different websites and services without first gaining parental consent as required by the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa), according to The Guardian.

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The group, in its complaint, has alleged that despite the search-engine giant claiming that the video-sharing website is only for those aged 13 and above, Google is aware that children below that age use the site.

According to the group, Google collects personal information in the form of location, device identifiers and phone numbers and uses it to track them across different websites and services without first obtaining parental consent as required by the Coppa.

“Google profits immensely by delivering ads to kids and must comply with Coppa (US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). It’s time for the FTC to hold Google accountable for its illegal data collection and advertising practices,” The Guardian quoted Josh Golin, a member of the group, as saying.

In this regard, a YouTube spokesperson said: “While we haven’t received the complaint, protecting kids and families has always been a top priority for us. We will read the complaint thoroughly and evaluate if there are things we can do to improve.”

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Android apps may be illegally tracking children, study finds

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Over 3300 free and popular children’s Android apps available on the Google Play Store could be violating child privacy laws, according to a new, large-scale study, highlighting growing criticism of Silicon Valley’s data collection efforts.

Researchers using an automated testing process have discovered that 3,337 family and child oriented Android apps on Google Play were improperly collecting kids’ data, potentially putting them in violation of the US’ Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA law (which limits data collection for kids under 13).

Only a small number were particularly glaring violations, but many apps exhibited behavior that could easily be seen as questionable.

Researchers analyzed nearly 6,000 apps for children and found that 3,337 of them may be in violation of the COPPA, according to the study report. The tested apps collected the personal data of children under age 13 without their parent’s permission, the study found.

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“This is a market failure,” said Serge Egelman, a co-author of the study and the director of usable security and privacy research at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The rampant potential violations that we have uncovered points out basic enforcement work that needs to be done.”

The researchers are adamant that they’re not showing ‘definitive legal liability.’ These apps may be running afoul of the law, but it’s up to regulators at the FTC to decide if they are. Without iOS data, it’s also unclear how common this problem is across platforms.

The potential violations were abundant and came in several forms, according to the study. More than 1,000 children’s apps collected identifying information from kids using tracking software whose terms explicitly forbid their use for children’s apps, the study found.

The researchers also said that nearly half the apps fail to always use standard security measures to transmit sensitive data over the Web, suggesting a breach of reasonable data security measures mandated by COPPA. Each of the 5,855 apps under review was installed more than 750,000 times, on average, according to the study.

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Unfortunately for parents, there’s little consumers can do to protect themselves since the policies and business practices of app developers and ad tracking companies are often opaque, Egelman said.

The study also points to a breakdown of so-called self-regulation by app developers who claim to abide by child privacy laws, as well as by Google, which runs the Android platform, he said.

Agencies

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