Australian Council on Children and the Media

Apps Can Trap

Apps can trap: protecting children's privacy

Many parents recognise risks such as: 

  • in-app purchasing,  
  • exposure to inappropriate advertising or
  • simulated gambling behaviour

But US research by the International Computing Science Institute (ICSI) has revealed hidden risks posed by a significantly large number of apps, which while claiming that they do not gather children’s personal data, are in fact doing so covertly.

Help for parents is on its way- support to understand and cope with this serious issue 

  • New project: with funding support from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), ACCM is working with researchers from ICSI, AppCensus and Macquarie University to research and list those apps most popular with children, and to identify those found to gather children’s data. (NOTE: The operation of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network is made possible by funding provided by the Commonwealth of Australia under section 593 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. This funding is recovered from charges on telecommunications carriers.)
  • Parent survey: as part of the above project, ACCM is surveying parent’s views about the apps their children play. You can give your views here.
  • Link to check app titles: Are the apps that your children play tracking them and gathering information without your knowledge? You can check the titles against the AppCensus database here. The information here may not be easy to interpret and that’s why ACCM is developing guides for parents and carers. Watch this space 

News and research on traps with apps and tracking    

  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has commissioned AppCensus research on 1000 apps in Australia, including 100 children’s apps.  Read the research here
  • The Australian Government has announced a review of Australia’s privacy laws: deadline Nov 29 2020. Read it here. Issues to be considered include expanding the scope of the Privacy Act to cover technical data and other online identifiers; and strengthening privacy notice and consent requirements
  • Android Software development kits (SDKs) from Jiguang found to perform invasive monitoring of consumers. Read here