Concerns over misuse of children's online data grow as apps illegally collect, sell information

More than 3,000 child-oriented apps collect and sell data, researchers find

DETROIT – Federal law makes it illegal to collect personal information from children younger than 13 online, yet researchers found that more than 3,000 child-oriented Android apps do just that.

That information is then being sold to advertisers. 

"The normal way of doing business on the internet is that you are tracked, advertised to and they try to learn as much about you as possible," Ian Sherr, of CNET, said. "Children are not allowed to be treated that way."

YouTube has also faced backlash after more than 20 consumer groups filed a complaint pushing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate channels and advertisements targeting kids younger than 13, who technically are not supposed to be using the website. Facebook also prohibits children younger than 13 from using the site.

"If you do choose to let your child have a Facebook account and go against Facebook and YouTube's own rules, it's important to be involved," Sherr said.

Messenger Kids on Facebook allows children to connect through a parent's account, with controls to monitor use and limit contacts. There are also parental controls on YouTube and a restricted mode that allows content filtering.

Facebook also has a form to report underage users and have the account deleted. Google said it is taking the researchers' report regarding children's apps seriously.

Parents should review privacy notices to be clear about what information companies are collecting.

About the Authors:

You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.