Google Removes Three Popular Apps for Children Over Privacy Violations


Google has removed three children’s apps from the Play Store after International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC) pointed out data collection violations. The three apps that were axed are – Princess Salon, Number Coloring, and Cats & Cosplay. Together, these apps saw more than 20 million downloads. IDAC paper money that these apps weren’t violating any rules with regards to code, but there were problems found in the frameworks that were powering these apps. The apps used SDKs from Unity, Umeng, and Appodeal. Issues were spotted in these developer kits.

TechCrunch reports that Google has already removed Princess Salon, Number Coloring, and Cats & Cosplay apps from the Play Store soon after IDAC reported them. “We will confirm that the apps referenced in the outline were removed. Whenever we find an app that violates our policies, we take action,” a Google spokesperson told the journal.

IDAC states that there have been problems found in the data collection practices by three software development kits (SDKs) used inside those apps. The three SDKs used in those apps – Unity, Umeng, and Appodeal – were reportedly not in compliance with broader Google Play policies around data collection. For example, sure versions of Unity’s SDK were collecting both the user’s AAID and Android ID concurrently. This goes against Google’s privacy policies and it could have allowed developers to bypass privacy controls and track users through the years and across devices.

“The AAID is Android’s unique ID used for advertising and, unlike the Android ID (another Android unique identifier); users be capable of reset their AAID. Then again, when the AAID is linked, or “bridged” with the non-resettable Android ID, it allows companies to track users; ID bridging in the end makes the AAID’s ability to be reset by users moot,” IDAC explains in its blog.

In any event, there weren’t any known violations reported by IDAC, nor were there any details shared on how much data was once compromised by these apps. Then again, this sheds light on the complicated nature of software and the potential risks involved even when there are well-intentioned app producers available in the market.

Must the government provide an explanation for why Chinese apps were banned? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you’ll subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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