#parent | #kids | Pokémon Go, Roadblocks, Messenger and YouTube Kids mobile apps flagged as potentially selling personal data of millions of Aussie kids


Parents are being warned of the dangers of popular children’s apps after they were found to be collecting and selling personal data.

Recent studies by analytics firm Pixalate as well as Human Rights Watch, found up to 4 million children in Australia may have had their privacy breached, with two in five children’s apps affected by the privacy issues.

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Of the kids’ apps available on Google Play, Pixalate suggests 44 per cent can access personal information, while in Apple’s App Store, 21 per cent of children’s apps don’t publish a privacy policy.

They also found in terms of educational apps for children, some 146 apps shared data with 196 third-party companies.

What data are the apps collecting?

Social media strategist Meg Coffey told Sunrise major tech companies were selling the data obtained from these apps to use for advertising.

“That is why we get the apps for free, because they can take all of that information, and they can sell it for advertising,” she said.

Coffey, however, also warned parents should assume these apps could be using all the private information available to them.

“You have to assume they are collecting all of the information available,” she said.

“It could be your children’s friends, search history, your IP address, but also your exact location.”

Many popular children’s apps were found to have potential security risks. Credit: Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Coffey explained the privacy concerns could become problematic when children were involved, since they didn’t understand the risks.

“They don’t have the education,” she said.

“And mind you, some parents don’t necessarily have the required education either, but kids just download these apps without reading the terms and conditions, partially because they are pages and pages long.”

Which apps are experts warning about?

Some 12,000 children’s apps have potential access to personal information, but have no detected privacy policy, the research by Pixalate found.

The most popular children’s apps the research found could pose potential security risks include:

  • Pokémon Go
  • Animal Jam
  • Roblox
  • Messenger Kids

“There are a lot of them, but those would be most of the ones most of us would be familiar with,” Coffey said.

In fact, experts say many apps, for both children and adults, have the potential to share personal data, however, children’s apps appear to have a greater risk.

On children’s apps, personal information is 42 per cent more likely to be shared with advertisers, the study said.

What can be done?

In terms of what can be done to prevent apps accessing and selling personal data, Coffey said more regulations were needed to protect users.

She explained that from an individual level, however, parents should monitor a child’s activities and always read the terms and conditions when downloading a new app.

“If there is a prompt that asks ‘do you want to allow this app to access your data?’ you can say yes or no,” she said.

“I strongly recommend you answer ‘no, I do not allow the app to track my data’.

“That’s about the limits of what you can actually do.”

In a statement to 7NEWS.com.au a Google Spokesperson said they have “strict protocols” in place to help protect kids on their platform.

“Apps designed for children must comply with our Families Policy, which requires developers to adhere to relevant laws, prohibits access to precise location data, prevents developers from transmitting device identifiers from children, and imposes additional privacy and content restrictions,” they said.



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