cloudy.png
Friday December 6th, 2019 4:30PM

Lawsuit renews focus on privacy policies for mobile apps

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Researchers have warned that many popular free mobile apps aimed at children are potentially violating a U.S. law designed to protect the privacy of young users.

Some brushed off the findings, but a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by New Mexico's top prosecutor is renewing focus on the public's growing concerns about whether information on online interests, browsing and buying habits are slipping into the hands of data brokers without their consent.

And there's not much parents can do, experts say.

There's no easy way even for a fairly savvy user to figure out whether an app is collecting personal data, said Serge Egelman, a member of the research team based at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

It took Egelman and his team modifying operating systems and creating special tools to analyze network traffic to examine how thousands of apps access sensitive data.

"It's not reasonable to expect the average end user to develop those tools just to figure out whether an app is safe for their kids to use — or for themselves to use," Egelman said.

The other problem lies with the current privacy framework that revolves around a notice and consent model. Experts say these policies are often ambiguous and written by lawyers whose goal is to protect the companies rather than users.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is taking aim in the lawsuit at Google, Twitter, their online ad businesses and mobile app maker Tiny Lab Productions, saying they're violating state and federal laws aimed at protecting the privacy of children by collecting information through the apps without consent.

Balderas is concerned about the potential for exploitation, saying the apps can accurately track where children live, go to school and play.

He's urging parents to pay closer attention to the apps their children use.

Whether other states follow suit or new legislation is proposed, experts see New Mexico's lawsuit as an important step in the debate.

Josh Golin, executive director of the Boston-based advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, said the Berkeley researchers exposed "just how flagrantly and widespread" violations of the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act are. He said the research should have prompted the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

"If the states start stepping in where the FTC has failed, that's definitely a good sign," Golin said.

Parents looking to avoid data-sapping apps shouldn't have to do anything, Golin said, because the law already calls for parents to be prompted for consent, otherwise nothing should be collected.

The research showed that wasn't always happening.

The researchers have established a database where parents and others can look up apps to see what information they collect and who they share it with. Another grant recently awarded by the National Science Foundation will ensure the project continues.

Tiny Lab Productions said Thursday it's considering what changes could be made as Google this week removed the company's apps from its Google Play Store. One option is not asking users for a birth date and treating everyone as if they were under 13 and covered by the law, said CEO Jonas Abromaitis.

He said the company takes privacy seriously and he hopes "this incident is all but a misunderstanding and it will be resolved with a satisfactory outcome for all related parties."

Tech companies are under increasing scrutiny over their data practices, following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and new data-privacy rules recently adopted by the European Union.

Last year, the business news site Quartz found that Google was tracking Android users by collecting the addresses of nearby cellphone towers even if all location services were off. Google changed the practice and insisted it never recorded the data anyway.

Christine Elgersma, senior editor of parent education at the nonprofit Common Sense Media, said "free apps are free for a reason," and what this usually means is that "in a way, we are the product."

Critics have said the tracking of users stems from a drive to boost revenue through targeted advertising and it's through ads that apps can make money.

For parents, Elgersma suggests paying for quality apps, so they're not paying with their child's personal data. She also said not all app developers are aware of all the laws and regulations and that some don't have privacy policies as they don't think it's necessary.

Corynne McSherry, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said there's no doubt parents are concerned about privacy for their children but that the web of apps, services and advertisers on the web is challenging.

"We live in a world now where you can't really afford not to educate your children about smart technology practices," she said. "It's not just what you can do to intervene to protect them, but we need to be educating them about what's OK and what's dangerous online because that's our new reality."

___

AP technology writers Matt O'Brien in Boston, and Barbara Ortutay in New York contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
4 dead as Hurricane Florence drenches the Carolinas
Four deaths have been blamed on Florence as the hurricane-turned-tropical storm pushes its way across the Carolinas with heavy rain and the potential for epic flooding
8:06PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Mother, infant, among several killed by Hurricane Florence
A mother and baby killed when a tree smashed into their house are among several deaths caused by Hurricane Florence
6:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
Everyone wants answers: Mass., feds hunt for gas blast cause
Investigators are working to pinpoint the cause of a series of dramatic natural gas explosions that killed a teenager, injured at least 25 others and left dozens of homes in smoldering ruins
6:00PM ( 2 hours ago )
U.S. News
Kavanaugh denies allegation of sexual misconduct in school
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has denied a sexual misconduct allegation from when he was in high school
7:58PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Dallas police face ire over portrayal of man shot by officer
Attorneys for the family of a man who was killed in his own apartment by a Dallas police officer blasted the investigation on Friday, denouncing it as a one-sided effort to clear the officer of wrongdoing
7:56PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Cubs reliever Pedro Strop to miss rest of regular season
Cubs reliever Pedro Strop will miss the rest of the regular season with a left hamstring strain, leaving the NL Central leaders with major questions at the back end of their bullpen
7:36PM ( 53 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Regulators keep watch on toxic waste sites during hurricane
Environmental regulators keep watch on more than three dozen toxic waste sites during hurricane
6:35PM ( 1 hour ago )
Gov. 'Moonbeam' says California to launch climate satellite
California Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday that the state plans to launch its own satellite into orbit to battle climate change
6:34PM ( 1 hour ago )
Death sentence for ex-doctor who killed 4 people in Nebraska
A former doctor convicted in the revenge killings of four people connected to a Nebraska medical school has been sentenced to death
6:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
'Uninvited brute': 2 dead as Florence drenches the Carolinas
Hurricane Florence's top winds make it just a Category 1 storm _ but its biggest threat comes from heavy rainfall
3:13PM ( 5 hours ago )
Cuomo defeats Nixon in NY gubernatorial primary
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has defeated primary challenger Cynthia Nixon to win his party's nomination for a third term
11:34PM ( 20 hours ago )
The Latest: Teen killed when exploded chimney falls on car
Authorities say an 18-year-old man has died after a house exploded amid gas explosions north of Boston, sending a chimney crashing into his car
11:16PM ( 21 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
The Latest: Kerry to Trump: Worry about Manafort, not Iran
Former Secretary of State John Kerry has responded to President Donald Trump's criticism of his meeting with the Iranian foreign minister by telling the commander in chief he should instead focus on the special counsel's investigation
6:01PM ( 2 hours ago )
Insurgent who won in NY says voters looked past distractions
A 27-year-old insurgent who defeated a veteran New York lawmaker after a bruising primary characterized by embarrassing revelations about her past said Friday that she won because voters were civically engaged and focused on the issues
5:43PM ( 2 hours ago )
Congressional race in southwest Washington draws spotlight
A congressional race in southwest Washington has drawn national attention
4:43PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Uncertainties mount as Iraq's PM says he won't seek 2nd term
Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi says he will not "cling to power," after Iraq's highest Shiite religious authority called for the appointment of a new head of government
2:37PM ( 5 hours ago )
Socialist wins legislative seat as voters oust splinter Dems
Democratic socialist Julia Salazar has overcome intense scrutiny of her personal life to win the Democratic primary for a state Senate seat in New York City
1:24PM ( 7 hours ago )
Cuomo cruises past Nixon in NY gubernatorial primary
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has defeated primary challenger Cynthia Nixon
2:34AM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Seahawks sign LB Mychal Kendricks despite legal troubles
The Seattle Seahawks have announced the signing of linebacker Mychal Kendricks despite his recent guilty plea on insider trading charges
5:40PM ( 2 hours ago )
Met Opera to start Sunday performances in 2019-20
The Metropolitan Opera in New York City will start regular Sunday afternoon performances for the first time in its century-plus history during the 2019-20 season
5:32PM ( 2 hours ago )
Grandmother sues over police shooting of black 13-year-old
The grandmother of a black 13-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer after a suspected robbery is suing the officer, his police chief and the city of Columbus
5:02PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
US stock indexes turn lower on renewed trade concerns
US stocks are giving up an early gain and turning slightly lower after Bloomberg News reported that President Donald Trump wants to go ahead with new tariffs on imports from China.
2:45PM ( 5 hours ago )
$1.5M settlement for Muslim workers fired in prayer dispute
A U.S. meatpacker has agreed to pay $1.5 million to 138 Somali-American Muslim workers who were fired from their jobs at a Colorado plant after they were refused prayer breaks
1:06PM ( 7 hours ago )
US stocks edge higher, led by banks and smaller companies
US stocks are slightly higher as banks and smaller companies rise after a strong report on industrial production, but retailers and high-dividend companies fall
12:00PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
The Apple Watch is inching toward becoming a medical device
Apple is trying to turn its smartwatch into a life preserver with features that gain key clearances from US government regulators
11:15AM ( 1 day ago )
Swedish regulator ends investigation of birth control app
Swedish regulators close investigation of birth control app after finding unwanted pregnancy rate in line with clinical data
11:12AM ( 1 day ago )
Leaked video: Google execs bemoan Trump election in 2016
A recently leaked video from 2016 shows Google executives lamenting the election of Donald Trump
10:00AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Technology News
4 dead as Hurricane Florence drenches the Carolinas
Four deaths have been blamed on Florence as the hurricane-turned-tropical storm pushes its way across the Carolinas with heavy rain and the potential for epic flooding
8:06PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Mother, infant, among several killed by Hurricane Florence
A mother and baby killed when a tree smashed into their house are among several deaths caused by Hurricane Florence
6:49PM ( 1 hour ago )
Everyone wants answers: Mass., feds hunt for gas blast cause
Investigators are working to pinpoint the cause of a series of dramatic natural gas explosions that killed a teenager, injured at least 25 others and left dozens of homes in smoldering ruins
6:00PM ( 2 hours ago )
An old problem: Aging pipelines lead to deadly explosions
Many wonder what they can do to protect themselves after Thursday's stunning explosions in Lawrence, Mass., that left one dead and at least 25 others injured
5:20PM ( 3 hours ago )
The guest that won't leave: 4 dead as Florence hits coast
Four deaths have been blamed on Hurricane Florence as the storm pushes its way across the Carolinas with heavy rain and the potential for epic flooding
4:47PM ( 3 hours ago )