Thousands of Apps Improperly Tracking Kids, Study Finds

Twin Design/

Some of the apps likely violate U.S. law.

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, invasive data collection by tech companies is on everyone's minds. But what happens when that data collection targets children?

A group of researchers discovered that 3,337 Android apps meant for child and family use were improperly collecting data, Engadget reported.

The researchers, who are affiliated with the International Computer Science Institute, used an automated testing process to examine 5,855 apps found in the Google Play store. The study did not examine data collection found in iOS apps.

Of those apps improperly collecting data, 281 collected contact or location data without parental permission. Another 1,100 apps shared identifying information with third parties. Researchers also estimate that 40 percent of apps transmitted data without using correct security measures. 1,280 of the apps had Facebook tie-ins. A large majority of those didn't properly use Facebook's code flags to limit under-13 use.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, currently limits data collection for children under the age of 13, though it's up to the Federal Trade Commission to determine what extent of data collection violates that law.