Kids’ apps that collect phone numbers: 82 million installs

12 Dec 2012
by Reggie Pierce
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The FTC’s recent report entitled “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade” outlines privacy issues in the App Stores. Using the keyword “kids”, the FTC’s staff analyzed a set of 480 apps from the Google Play market. IP Lasso ran the same report and tallied the number of installs for these apps. The results are alarming:

Kids Search

The FTC’s report randomly analyzed a portion of the top 480 apps returned for the search query “kids” on the Google Play Market. IP Lasso took the FTC results a step further by analyzing all 480 apps. Our software calculates a conservative estimate of an app’s installs, showing how widespread the privacy problem truly is.

Let’s be absolutely clear. When a child downloads one of the above apps, the app developer has the ability to see what the camera is seeing at any time. Or monitor the location of the child. Or call phone numbers from the phone without intervention. Or send text messages to any number, a frequent attack method of Android malware.

This is why FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz stated:

“Our study shows that kids’ apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents.”

And kids aren’t the only ones affected by privacy issues. Parents and Brand owners also need to be concerned- and special attention must be paid to unlicensed apps installed under the guise of iconic brands. The result is often an unhappy parent blaming the brand owner for spyware infecting their phones.

In our next post we will take an indepth look at the 21,000 Android apps indexed for our clients over the past 30 days. Our preliminary research shows that apps with the ability to track your location have been installed well over a billion times.

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To learn more about our findings, or to see how IP Lasso can protect your brands in the emerging app economy, contact us today.

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