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Apps are harvesting kids’ data at an alarming rate

Parents often don’t pay much attention to what their kids do on their smartphones, especially if they’re busy playing video games. However, an investigation by TheToyZone about 107 popular children’s apps reveals that these apps often collect an absurd amount of data.

Out of the 107 apps that TheToyZone went through, only 17 didn’t collect any data. Money management apps collect the most data, followed by gaming, social media and messaging, video streaming, books and reading, education, arts and crafts, music, coding, nature and animals, with science apps collecting the least data. 

Here, the data types include contact info, location, contacts, browsing history, search history, purchase, and usage data. Greenlight Kids and Teen Banking collected the most data with over 22 different types, followed by Pokemon Go, which collects over 17 different data parameters.

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Fun and Games? More like data and tracking

Greenlight claims not to sell or monetise user data. However, the app had previously come under scrutiny in 2021 when Vice revealed a loophole in its privacy policy allowing the app to share personal information with ad vendors, marketing agencies, insurance companies, collection agencies and the all-encompassing category of “other service providers”. 

Since then, the company has removed this part of their policy, justifying its existence by saying that it was there in case the company ever decided to offer merchant-funded offers to parents in the future based on anonymous information. It’s also worth pointing out that most of these 107 apps collect data legally, including data needed to make the app function as intended. 

CatagoryMost invasive appData segments trackedName of data segments tracked
Art & Craft / DrawingArtWorkout12User Content,
Browsing History,
Identifiers,
Purchases,
Usage Data,
Diagnostics,
Other Data.
Books & ReadingAmazon Kids+14Contact Info,
Sensitive Info,
User Content,
Search History,
Identifiers,
Usage Data,
Diagnostics,
Other Data.
CodingHopscotch9Contact Info,
User Content,
Identifiers,
Purchases,
Usage Data,
Diagnostics.
EducationalSpeech Blubs12Contact Info,
Health & Fitness,
Sensitive Info,
User Content,
Identifiers,
Purchases,
Usage Data,
Diagnostics.
GamingPokemon Go17Contact Info,
Health & Fitness,
Location,
Contacts,
User Content,
Identifiers,
Purchases,
Usage Data,
Diagnostics.
Money ManagementGreenlight22Contact Info,
Health & Fitness,
Financial Info,
Location,
Sensitive Info,
Contacts,
User Content,
Browsing History,
Search History,
Identifiers,
Purchases,
Usage Data,
Diagnostics,
Other Data.
MusicJust Dance Now10Health & Fitness,
Location,
User Content,
Identifiers,
Purchases,
Diagnostics,
Usage Data.
Social Media & MessagingMessenger Kids / Kinzoo Social15Contact Info,
Location,
Contacts,
User Content,
Identifiers,
Purchases, Usage Data,
Diagnostics.
Video StreamingYouTube Kids15Contact Info,
Location,
User Content,
Search History,
Identifiers,
Usage Data,
Diagnostics,
Other Data.

The award for the most data-hungry learning app from this app pool goes to Speech Blubs, an app that collects 12 different data types, including two health and fitness segments and one sensitive data segment, which can include information like ethnic data, genetic information and biometrics among other data points. 

As mentioned before, Pokemon Go leads the charge for gaming apps, collecting 17 different data points. Following suit with its sibling apps meant for older people, Messenger Kids is the most invasive social media app collecting 15 data points, a tie with Kinzoo Social. 

YouTube Kids isn’t far behind either, coming at around 15 segments, including location, search history and identifiers. DisneyNow is a close second with nine data segments, including contact information, search history, location and usage data. 

CatagoryLeast invasive appData segments trackedName of data segments tracked
Art & Craft / DrawingDrawing For Kids:
Doodle Games
0
Books & ReadingBedtime Stories: Night Train0
CodingDaisy the Dinosaur0
EducationalMarcoPolo Ocean0
GamingTownscaper0
Money ManagementJassby1Identifiers
MusicLoopimal0
Social Media & MessagingGirl2girlwall0
Video StreamingAmaze Kids2Contact Info,
Identifiers.

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