Android users have been sent a shock warning about the Google Play Store.
Android is one of the most used pieces of software in the world, with over two billion active devices running it each and every month.
And its huge user base has been sent a number of warnings from security experts about risks revolving around the Google Play Store.
The most high profile Android security scare was arguably the Judy malware campaign where up to 36.5million devices were infected from over 40 apps. And now Android users are once again being put on alert about the Google Play Store – but this time it’s nothing to do with malware.
A group of almost two dozen bodies have filled a complaint calling for Google to be investigated over the Google Play Store. The complaint calls for an investigation into “whether Google is misrepresenting to parents that the apps in the Family section of the Play Store are child-appropriate when they are not”.
The complaint, led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, was filed to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US.
It claims some apps in the Family section of the Google Play Store exposed children to inappropriate content and lure kids into making in-app purchases. The complaint, according to TechCrunch, said: “Some apps that Google promotes as family-friendly also deploy unfair and deceptive advertising practices such as manipulating kids to watch ads or make purchases in order to advance in a game.
“Our research also revealed that many apps feature inappropriate content for children.”
It added: “Nearly three-quarters of the apps in the Family section transmit device identifiers to third parties. “There is no way for us to know for sure what the device identifiers are used for.”
“Since many of the apps send device identifiers to third parties that specialize in monetizing apps and/or engaging in interest-based (behavioral) advertising, it seems unlikely that this information is being used solely to support internal operations.”
Specific apps were called out for alleged aggressive monetisation while others were highlighted for “graphic, sexualised images”.
Google said: “Parents want their children to be safe online and we work hard to protect them.
“Apps in our Designed for Families programme have to comply with strict policies on content, privacy and advertising, and we take action on any policy violations that we find.
“We take these issues very seriously and continue to work hard to remove any content that is inappropriately aimed at children from our platform.”
They added: “Our ads policies prohibit advertisers from collecting personal information from, or serving personalised advertising to, users under 13 or the applicable age in their country.”
The news will especially be of interest to parents with kids on their school holidays this Christmas and having more time to play on their phones.
If you’re wondering how to set parental controls on your child’s smartphone then internetmatters.org has a guide on how to do.