But that was not all; over 3,300 apps were caught violating one or some other policy made to avoid apps tracking children.
Amongst the many concerning findings was that almost 256 apps collected the geolocation data, 107 apps shared the email address of the device owner, and 10 apps shared phone numbers. It triggered a chain reaction where lawmakers, as well as the population at large, started scrutinising how tech companies are collecting and using information on them. YouTube, which Google also owns, was is the subject of a complaint filed earlier this month in which privacy groups said it was also violating COPPA.
The study's results are of concern for parents who think their children's data is protected, but in reality is not. "We also observed that 73% of the tested applications transmitted sensitive data over the internet", the study found.More news: Facebook has spent $20M on Zuckerberg's security since 2015
All the apps analyzed in their study are part of the Google Play Store "Designed for Families" (DFF) program, a section of the Play Store that lists only apps that developers say are COPPA compliant, so at least in theory, these apps should not have had any violations. The FCT reportedly confirmed whether or not employees of an app market requested game developers not to register their games in other app markets and whether or not game developers received special favors or disadvantages with respect to the matter. According to COPPA, using the behavioural advertising techniques on children is prohibited in the US.
More than 2,200 apps were claimed to be breaching Google's terms of service with regards to sharing "persistent identifiers", whereby information over time can be associated with individual users over time and across apps, platforms and devices.
The researchers, from UC Berkeley, the University of British Columbia and Stony Brook University, said the apps could be violating 1999's Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. Some of the apps named in the report include KidzInMind, TabTale's "Pop Girls-High School Band", and Fun Kid Racing. In 2016, the ad network InMobi was fined United States dollars 1 million for gathering the location of users - including children - without proper consent. Just 5 percent failed to ask for parental consent before accessing data from the user, however the remaining that did ask for consent are subject to children being dishonest about their age when prompted to confirm.More news: WaPo/ABC Poll: Democrat advantage on voter preferences and enthusiasm shrinks
"Given the number of children's apps and a complex third-party ecosystem, analysis at scale is important to properly understand the privacy landscape", the study's conclusion added.
Google's distribution numbers suggest that either a lot of people are simply ignoring the updates and using their phones with the older software, or that people are holding on to their older devices for longer, contrary to what the trends make us believe.More news: What did we learn? Game one: Avs vs. Preds