FTC Begins to Probe into Unfair Business Practices of Google App Market

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Researchers also found that almost half the apps are not taking "reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security, and integrity of personal information collected from children".

Using this automated system, the researchers found 3,337 child and family-oriented apps were collecting data about children they should not have been.

The researchers found that 28% of the apps accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions and that 73% of the tested apps transmitted sensitive data over the internet.

"Although we can not know the true number of children's apps in the Play Store, we believe that our results are representative, given that the apps that we examined represent the most popular free ones", the study, first spotted by Engadget, concluded. In particular, the FTC is checking whether or not Google requested Korean game developers to release their games on Google's app store "Play Store" only. Facebook-integrated apps were breaking the law because they didn't protect users under 13 years of age.

The study looked at 5,855 apps targeted at children, which had each been downloaded an average of 750,000 times, the researchers said.

The researchers found many were not complying with COPPA because they did not attain "verifiable parental consent".

"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. What is concerning is the fact that Android Lollipop (5.0 and 5.1) holds a combined market share of 22.9 percent, whereas Android KitKat still runs on 10.5 percent devices.

In an attempt to not be suspended from Google's services, Unlockd has taken out an injunction against the online advertising giant in the UK High Court and is threatening to report the company for uncompetitive behaviour to various competition regulators including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the US Federal Trade Commission and the European Commissioner for Competition.

Google, in 2014, had allowed its users to reset their Android Advertising ID, which gave them better control on how online services track their data. However, the paper's co-author, Serge Egelman denied his claims and stated, "Even if his claims are true, they are irrelevant as the study was performed using machine algorithm by randomly pressing buttons".

In a Tuesday statement to PCMag, a Google spokesperson said the company is "taking the researchers' report very seriously and looking into their findings".

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