A new study shows that 60% of apps used by schools share personal data with third party companies. The study also shows that out of the two smartphone software, Android is more likely to share data than iOS.
Android Apps Share Data
The research comes from Me2B Alliance, a non-profit group describing itself as focused on respectful technology.
The study found that Android apps were three times more likely to share a user’s personal data with third parties, and iOS is less risky.
Of the 44 apps found sharing student data, 73% of them were Android apps. Also, Android apps were much more likely to send data to third parties labeled either high risk or very high risk.
The research stated that 91% of Android apps send data to high risk parties compared to 26% of iOS apps. Around 20% of Android apps sent data to very high risk parties, compared to only 2.6% of iOS apps.
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On average, each school app transmitted data to more than ten third-party data channels. The third parties the apps sent data to included advertising platforms like Facebook and Google.
The data included unique identifiers that allow ad trackers and other third parties to create tracking profiles for students. The profiling practice includes children under the age of 13.
Furthermore, the study adds that most of the apps initiated data transmission as soon as the app loads. This finding means that they begin tracking the student even before they have signed in to the app.
Me2B Alliance tested a random sample of 73 apps used by 38 schools across 14 different states in the United States.
The team conducting the test stated that that the audited apps cover more than half a million users, including students, their respective families, and educators.
Lisa LeVasseur, executive director of Me2B Alliance, said that the findings from their researchers show the pervasiveness of data sharing with high risk entities, and the amount of people whose data could be compromised because of the school’s lack of resources.
LeVasseur added that the study aims to bring these concerns to light to ensure the right funding support and protections are in place to safeguard the children, whom are very vulnerable online.
Apple’s Privacy Tool
Apple has taken an extra step to make sure that users are protected while using iPhones and other Apple products. In 2019, Apple promised to give users more privacy, as reported by The Washington Post.
Vox noted that Apple iOS 14.5 is equipped with the long-awaited privacy feature. It prompts iPhone and iPad users to opt out of tracking in apps that monitor their behavior and share that data with third parties.
The new feature is a significant step for user privacy, as it gives people more control over their phone app data and how it is used by companies like Google and Facebook in order to target ads.
Moreover, the move has frustrated app developers and tech companies that have relied on the reservoir of user data for years, and who fear that they are likely to be cut off from it in the near future.
The difference that most people will see with the introduction of the new privacy tool, called App Tracking Transparency, is a pop-up that appears when they open an app that tracks the user.
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Written by Sophie Webster
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