Serge Egelman

Tiny Lab Responds

In our work looking at COPPA violations, one company really stood out: Tiny Lab Productions. They currently have 98 games available in the Play Store. Most of these games are in Google’s Designed for Families (DFF) program, which means that the developer is specifically marketing their apps to children under 13. We cited them in the paper as a particularly egregious example because their children’s apps were collecting location data, persistent identifiers, and even email… Continue Reading

Joel Reardon

Apps sending location, secretly.

One of the things we noticed when doing our large-scale study of children’s games was that way more apps were accessing location data than were seen actually sending it. In some ways this makes sense—COPPA quite explicitly forbids sending location data without verifiable parental consent, something that our testing framework did not provide. Nevertheless, since we couldn’t come up with a plausible reason why many of these apps actually needed location, we thought there was… Continue Reading

Serge Egelman

We get letters

In late February of this year, we received word that an advertising company, ironSource, had obtained a leaked draft of our paper on COPPA violations in Android apps. In that version of the paper, we mentioned them (and their subsidiary, Supersonic) exactly once: in a table of advertising SDKs whose terms of service prohibit their use in child-directed apps (Table 2 of the final paper). We noted that many third-party SDKs include these clauses presumably… Continue Reading

Serge Egelman

“Our children’s apps aren’t directed at children.”

In our study of kids’ Android apps, we observed that a majority of apps specifically targeted at kids may be violating U.S. privacy law: the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In response to this revelation, many companies that we named in our paper have responded by stating that they are not covered by the law because either their apps are not directed at children or they have no knowledge that any of their users… Continue Reading

Serge Egelman

CVS Responds: Fake News!

As a followup to my previous post, I both emailed CVS and tweeted at them to give them an opportunity to comment on their app’s location-sharing practices: I noticed that your mobile app appears to be sharing my location data with around 40 different third parties. Can you please explain this? Is this a bug? They responded 5 hours later, claiming that they do not share location data with any third parties: …we do not… Continue Reading

Serge Egelman

CVS Discretely Shares Your Location with 40+ Other Sites

Recently, we decided to take a closer look at apps in our database that are sharing location data. This is a concern, because it could be used to track someone over time. One app in particular stood out, just based on the sheer number of data recipients. The “CVS/pharmacy” app appears to be sending the user’s GPS coordinates to over 40 different entities! Some of these include:
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