How some of the most-popular children’s apps are sharing data in ‘troubling’ ways

Parents are being warned that some of Australia’s most-popular entertainment apps for children contain a risky code that companies to gather data on children and build profiles that can follow them for life.

The findings come from an audit of 186 Android entertainment apps by Children and Media Australia (CMA), which flew a leading data and security expert to Australia to test the apps.

Despite international treaties on children’s privacy, it is now estimated that 72 million pieces of personal data will be collected on every child around the world before their 13th birthday.

CMA engaged Serge Egelman — research director of Usable Security and Privacy Research at the prestigious University of California, Berkeley — to test the most-popular children’s entertainment products over a nine-month period, concluding in March, 2022.

Mr Egelman found 59 per cent — or 101 of the 186 tested — contained concerning code.

He said the audit revealed a number of practices that went beyond advertising, and was concerned the sensitive information of young Australians was in the hands of corporate entities with limited independent oversight.

“This data can be used for many other purposes, too, many of which probably haven’t been invented yet,” he said.

“That’s problematic when it’s coming from children probably even less aware that this is occurring than adults [would be].”


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