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Google Play under FTC investigation in Korea for abuse of market position

17 April 2018

Then there's the problem with ensuring children are honest with how old they are when accessing apps and that they do indeed seek the permission of parents when prompted.

The apps targeted at children, were downloaded 750,000 times, on an average. That's why, for the most part, the industry has relied on self-regulation.

Researchers also found that 28% of the tested apps accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions and 73% transmitted sensitive data over the Internet.

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What is even more surprising is the fact that approximately 400 apps were found recording either device information or geolocation data or email address of device owners or phone numbers.

This new study comes out just days after Android smartphone manufacturers were criticized by security researchers for misleading users into thinking their devices have the latest security patches. In particular, they were curious about how apps aimed at kids comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which strictly controls what information can be collected from children. About 1100 apps shared persistent identifiers that could be utilized in behavioral advertising techniques, something that is debarred for use on kids by COPPA.

Apple's App Store accounted for 24.5 percent, while One Store, jointly operated by Korea's three carriers SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus and portal website operator Naver, accounted for 11.6 percent, according to the report.

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While the researchers point out in their paper that they are not lawyers and can only find possible violations, they've also published their tools and data sets so that Google and other regulators can have a go at it.

Only a week after it was alleged that YouTube violated USA laws that protect children's online privacy, a study has claimed a majority of popular free children's apps in the Google Play Store are also in breach of these rules. Developers can use our testing infrastructure to assess how well their apps comply with their privacy policies and regulatory requirements, prior to releasing those apps to the public. In such scenario, for Google to make sure every app is adhering all T&Cs and laws is a daunting task. A recent analysis of free Android apps revealed that the developers are leaving behind the keys embedded in applications in some cases because the software developer kits install them by default. In 2017, the head of the Department of Health's National Data Guardian (NDG) criticised Google for sharing patient data. This is true of any app including Google Play Store's own app.

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Google Play under FTC investigation in Korea for abuse of market position