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Fake messaging apps could compromise your Android phone

The collection of data by any such app doesn't necessarily mean that the app is violating Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), but none of these apps has obtained required consent from parents that could be verified.

The study finds thousands of apps targeted to children were sending data to advertisers, some including Global Positioning System location. The study found that many of these apps targeted to kids were violating that law.

Seven researchers analysed almost 6,000 apps for children and found that majority of them on Google Play Store are tracking data on kids in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which regulates data collection from users who are under 13 years old.

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.

Google Play product manager Andrew Ahn wrote on the Android Developers Blog: "Famous titles get a lot of search traffic for particular keywords, so the bad actors try to amass installs leveraging such traffic".

While the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) has yet to receive reports from users here of fake mobile apps containing malicious codes, the deputy director of its National Cyber Incident Response Centre, Mr Douglas Mun, urges users to exercise caution when downloading apps.

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While the findings of the study reveal a concerning trend among Android app for kids, the researchers claim that they are not showing "definitive legal liability".

Fun Kid Racing alone has more than 10 million downloads, according to the app page.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) is checking whether or not Google requested Korean game developers to release their games on Google's app store "Play Store" only.

Around 4.8% of the apps studied were in clear violation of sharing location or contact information without consent, while 18% shared identifiers for target advertising.

Google possibly has trouble with maintaining their privacy terms as a significant portion of their applications directed towards children compromise them.

Furthermore, it says Google's efforts to limit tracking by using resettable advertising IDs are largely ineffective. Players are supposed to enter their birth date, and if they are under 13, the app doesn't collect any data, said Tiny Labs Productions CEO Jonas Abromaitis. 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. The study also found that 40 percent of the apps transmitted information without using proper security measures.

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