ALBUQUERQUE, N. M. (AP)
Researchers warn that many popular free mobile apps for children may violate the U. S.
Laws designed to protect the privacy of young users.
Some have denied the findings, but the federal lawsuit filed by New Mexico's top prosecutor on Tuesday once again focused on public concerns about whether information on online interests is growing, without the consent of data brokers, browsing and buying habits are falling into their hands.
Experts say there is not much parents can do.
Even for a fairly savvy user, Serge egeman says, there is no easy way to determine if the app is collecting personal data, A member of the research team at the University of California, Berkeley International Institute of Computer Science.
Egelli and his team modified the operating system and created special tools to analyze network traffic to study how thousands of applications access sensitive data.
"It's not reasonable to expect regular end users to develop these tools just to figure out if the app is safe for their children to use or use it on their own," Egeman said . ".
Another issue is the current privacy framework around the notification and consent model.
These policies are often ambiguous, written by lawyers who aim to protect companies rather than users, experts say.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is filing a lawsuit against Google, Twitter, their online advertising business and Tiny Lab Productions, a maker of mobile apps, who said, they violate state and federal laws that aim to protect children's privacy by collecting information through unauthorized applications.
Balderas is concerned about the potential of development, saying that these apps can accurately track where children live, go to school and play.
He urged parents to keep a close eye on apps used by their children.
Experts believe that no matter whether other countries follow suit or whether new legislation is introduced, New Mexico's litigation is an important step in the debate.
Josh Golin, executive director of Boston
Researchers at Berkeley say the advocacy group campaign based on a free childhood in business exposes how "blatant and pervasive" violations of the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act are ".
The study should prompt the Federal Trade Commission to investigate, he said.
"If the United States starts to intervene where the Federal Trade Commission has failed, this is definitely a good sign," Golin said . ".
Parents who want to avoid data leakage
The sapps app should not do anything, Golin said, because the law already requires consent from parents, otherwise nothing should be collected.
Research shows that this is not always the case.
Researchers have set up a database in which parents and others can look up apps and see what information they collect and who they share it.
Another recent grant from the National Science Foundation will ensure that the project continues.
Tiny Lab Productions said on Thursday that as Google removed the company's app from the Google Play Store this week, it was considering what changes might be made.
CEO Jonas Abromaitis said that an option is not to ask the user to enter the date of birth, but to treat everyone as under 13 years old and protected by law.
The company takes privacy seriously, he said, and he hopes "this incident is just a misconception that all interested parties will get a satisfactory result.
"After a series of privacy scandals on Facebook and new data, the data practices of technology companies are being increasingly reviewed --
Privacy rules recently passed by the EU.
Last year, commercial news site Quartz found that even if all location services were closed, Google tracked Android users by collecting addresses from nearby mobile towers.
Google changed that and insisted that no data should be recorded anyway.
Christine Elgersma, senior editor of parent education for non-profit Common Sense Media, said, "free apps are free, and there's a reason for that", which often means "to some extent, we are products.
"Critics say the tracking of users stems from efforts to boost revenue through targeted advertising, and it is through advertising that apps can make money.
For parents, Elgersma recommends paying for high-quality apps so they don't have to pay for their child's personal data.
Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said there is no doubt that parents are concerned about the privacy of their children, but the network of applications, services and advertisers on the network is challenging.
"We are now living in a world where you really can't help but educate your children about smart technology practices," she said . ".
"It's not just what you can do to protect them, we also need to educate them about what's good and what's dangerous because it's our new reality.
Matt O'Brien, a technical writer in Boston, and Barbara otutty, New York, contributed to the report.
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