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Consumer Groups Want Google's Kid App Policies Investigated

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Dec 19, 2018, 2:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A collection of organizations that monitors services marketed to children and consumers alleges Google's marketing policies in the Google Play Store are misleading and should be investigated. The groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission wherein they suggest the Family section of the Play Store is rife with content unsuitable for kids. For example, apps showed ads for casino games, forced kids to watch video ads, and steered them toward making in-app purchases. Moreover, the groups also claim a number of apps violate the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting phone numbers, precision location, photos, and persistent tracking identifiers — all without verifiable parental permission. In April, researchers found that thousands of free children's apps shared personal data. In October, two senators asked for a federal investigation into Google's vetting process for kid apps. Those same senators today sent a second letter to the FTC asking for "a comprehensive investigation into the Google Play store and its compliance" with rules protecting children's privacy. Google says it has already nixed thousands of apps from the Designed for Families program after finding policy violations. "Parents want their children to be safe online, and we work hard to protect them," said Google spokesperson Aaron Stein in a statement provided to the New York Times. "Apps in our Designed for Families program have to comply with strict policies on content, privacy and advertising, and we take action on any policy violations that we find." The FTC has not yet publicly commented on the letters, nor has it publicly launched an investigation.

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