Several associations claimed that Google is allowing and distributing apps for kids that are unsavory at best and incredibly aggressive in the worst case. Some of the apps include adult content and shady monetization schemes.
The issue is aggravated by the fact that all the apps in question can be found inside the children’s section of the Google Play Store.
According to the Google Parent guide child-friendly apps can be found in the Family section of the Play Store. They are marked by a family-friendly star that is usually accompanied by an age range number
Many parents think that apps developed for children should comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This means that the apps aren’t expected to use shady practices like deceptive or aggressive advertising.
The letter also argues that Google is guilty of breaching its own eligibility criteria which mentions that they have to comply with both COPPA regulations and Google’s internal advertising policy.
Several apps breach COPPA restrictions by collecting personal information from children without including any form of notification and choice for the parents.
Many apps that are advertised towards children included and employ paywalls that effectively halt progress in order to encourage children to watch video adverts or purchase in-app microtransactions. Some apps include content that is not appropriate for children but claim that they are family-friendly.
Select apps also breach the COPPA by collecting and selling location data. They claim that the data is anonymized and the practice is not dangerous but in reality it is easy to determine the real identity of a user by observing their travel pattern.
Many of the app developers and distributors have also formally acknowledged that they gather and use data for targeted advertising, justifying the practice by noting that there is no possibility to directly observe who the active user of the app is.
The letter was sent to the Federal Trade Commission.
Agnes is a technical writer, being in touch with reports to come up with the latest tech leaks.