That app which occupies your child in your iPad for an hour while you “get a break” might be fleecing your child's data. Child apps which may seem like educational gems might instead be selling data to third-parties. And that's not good.
A new study analyzed child privacy in relation to kids' educational apps and the results were as unsavory as we all might assume.
“My colleagues and I found that 67% of the apps played by 3- to 4-year-old children collected these sorts of digital identifiers — mobile serial numbers or ID codes that can be traced back to the device's owner — and shared them with ‘third party' marketing companies,” said lead author Dr. Jenny Radesky, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, told KMOV.
“The fact that two thirds of apps used by very young children transmit information about their online activity — information that is ultimately used to target ads — suggests that COPPA noncompliance is indeed widespread, and more enforcement is needed,” said Angela Campbell, who directs the Institute for Public Representation Communications and Technology Clinic at Georgetown Law, in an accompanying editorial.
If you don't think this sounds all that bad, think again. These apps collect vital information, such as their exact device, along with their behavioral traits. If a child is impatient, the educational app understands this and compiles it. If a child likes certain awards, but not other awards, an app can sell off that data to a company that uses it to bait the kid into an offer. How a child learns can be tapped, as well.
When it comes to privacy, child educational apps are egregiously and absurdly non-compliant and many parents are asleep at the wheel.
When anyone, your child included, uses the web, they leave a trail of information behind, often with their ISP. This information is valuable, so an ISP can sell it to the highest bidder. The winning company then has information on you that helps them sell you.
Many people are turning to VPNs as a way to cut out ISP tracking. A VPN can help you stop ISP data collection and subsequent sales. But its also important to monitor which apps your child uses on technology, or even if the child should use an iPad or smart tablet at all.
One thing is for sure, we all need to help protect our kids data. They have no choice in the matter. If collecting your child's data goes unchecked, that's potentially a file of 18 years of behavioral monitoring we failed to stop.