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Researchers Develop Tool to Protect Children's Online Privacy


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Children playing apps on smartphones.

Researchers have developed a tool that can determine whether mobile applications for children comply with the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Credit: iStock photo

Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas), the Georgia Institute of Technology, New York University, and Intel have developed a tool that can determine whether mobile applications for children comply with the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The researchers used their COPPA Tracking by Checking Hardware-Level Activity (COPPTCHA) tool to determine that 72 of 100 mobile apps for children that they examined violated COPPA.

COPPTCHA accesses a device's special-purpose register, a temporary data-storage site within a microprocessor that tracks its activities, and detects the signature of an app transmitting data.

The tool was found to be 99% accurate in assessing apps' COPPA compliance; it found many popular game apps for young children exposed users' Android IDs, Android advertising IDs, and device descriptions.

UT Dallas' Kanad Basu said apps that violate COPPA pose privacy risks that could enable bad actors to ascertain a child's identity and location.

From UT Dallas News Center
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