The Google Play store is marketing games geared towards children that share data with third parties and which feature creepy content, BuzzFeed News is reporting. Twenty-two child-advocacy groups came together to write a 99-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday to bring attention to this issue. The letter was also supported by Democratic lawmakers Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. David Cicilline.
In April, a study conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley found that thousands of apps Google is making available could potentially be violating guidelines under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This federal law forbids companies from collecting and tracking personal information from kids under the age of 13. Google does require that all apps geared towards kid comply with the COPPA guidelines -- as well as apply for their "Designed for Families" program -- but it seems as if some games have still managed to slip through the cracks.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), one of the groups that wrote the letter, worked with a Berkeley researcher to identify 84 apps that were part of the Designed for Families program -- and which were tracking the location of the user, and sharing it with third parties. While Google says that they monitor their apps closely, and have already removed "thousands" due to policy violations, Josh Golin -- executive director of the CCFC -- feels that they are not really dedicated to addressing the problem.