Google removes 3 apps for kids from Play Store over data collection violations, uninstall them right away
These three apps that have been removed from the Google Play Store have more than 20 million downloads between them. If you have them on your devices, uninstall them.
The Google Play Store has nearly three million apps and the fact that there are so many of them means that it is possible for some shady apps to slip through - like three apps in question that Google has now pulled off the Play Store.
TechCrunch reports that researchers at the International Digital Accountability Council (IDAC), a nonprofit watchdog based out of Boston, found that three popular and “seemingly innocent-looking apps aimed at younger users” have recently been found to be violating Google's data collection policies and potentially accessing users' Android ID and AAID (Android Advertising ID) numbers, with the data leakage potentially connected to the apps being built using SDKs from Unity, Umeng and Appodeal.
These three apps are Princess Salon, Number Coloring and Cats & Cosplay and between them they have about 20 million downloads. All three apps have been removed from the play store and Google confirmed to TechCrunch that these apps were pulled off after IDAC brought their violations to notice.
The violations bring the focus to a wider concern that involves the approach of the three app publishers to adhering to data protection policies. “The practices we observed in our research raised serious concerns about data practices within these apps,” said IDAC president Quentin Palfrey pointed out.
This particular incident is getting highlighted at a time when Google is facing one of the largest antitrust cases in US history and questions have been raised about the “size of its operation”. Google has been sued by the US Department of Justice and 11 states and has been accused of “monopolistic and anticompetitive behavior in search and search advertising”.
Just to be clear, these app violations that Google is being questioned about are not related to search but they do raise more questions about the scale of Google's operations and how small oversights like these can lead to millions of users getting affected.
Incidents like these also serve as a reminder of “the challenges of proactively policing individual violations on such a scale, and that those challenges can land in a particularly risky area: how minors use apps”.
In the case of two of the publishers, Creative APPS and Libii Tech their other apps are still live. And it appears that versions of the apps are still downloadable through APK sites. There are also versions on iOS, but IDAC's tech team said that “in an initial analysis, it didn't immediately see analogous concerns, but will continue to monitor the situation”.
As TechCrunch points out, the violation in the case of these three apps is complex but is an example of “one of the ways that users can unknowingly be tracked through apps”.