A new study by consumer group Compareitech studied more than 400 children’s apps on Google Play and has found that almost 25% failed to comply with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) age appropriate design code, or Children’s Code.
The Herald reports that the majority of failures came from the apps collecting personal data of some kind.
The Children’s Code sets out the standards that companies have to comply with to adhere to data protection laws in the UK, specifically when it comes to protecting the personal information of children.
"Perhaps even more concerning was that 5.5% of the apps we reviewed claimed not to be targeted toward children, despite being featured within the child-specific section on Google Play and sometimes featuring the word 'kids' in the app name."
Is Google doing enough to protect children?
Data collected included sensitive information such as IP addresses, online contact information, phone numbers, and even the age and addresses of users.
Notably, all of the apps found to be in violation of the code were graded by Google as “expert approved”, which means that teachers and specialists have endorsed them based on “enriching and entertaining” content.
"The children's code makes clear that children are not like adults online, and their data needs greater protections,” said an ICO spokesperson. "We want children to be online, learning, playing and experiencing the world, but with the right protections in place to do so that reflects their best interests.”
"All online services likely to be accessed by children must conform with the children's code in order to be compliant with data protection legislation.”
Google stated that it was examining the findings of the report and its methodology.
“Google Play takes the protection of children on its platform seriously,” said a spokesperson for the company. “Play has policies and processes in place to help protect children on our platform and has invested significant resources into related features.”
"Apps that target children must comply with our Google Play families policy, which requires developers to adhere to all relevant laws and all of Play's developer programme policies, plus imposes additional privacy, monetisation and content restrictions like prohibiting access to precise location data.”
"Developers are responsible for ensuring their apps are compliant with all relevant laws and appropriate for their target audiences, including children."
In October, we reported on how the mobile gaming industry is dealing with the implementation of the Children’s Code.