Some popular Android apps aimed at boys and girls in the US such as Tic Tac Toe Kids and Chef Cook Mania – Cooking Game habor aggressive adware capable of tracking and profiling children and hitting them regularly with unwanted advertising, according to BitdefenderÂ®, the leading global antivirus company.
The analysis was conducted in light of a recent study by the Federal Trade Commission on Google Play apps, which revealed that 60 percent of mobile apps broadcast device IDâ€™s and share them with advertising networks.
Apps such as Raise a Baby, Lucky Star Live Wallpaper Free, Princess Barbie, Tic Tac Toe Kids, and Chef Cook Mania – Cooking Game have clocked in from 500,000 to 5 million downloads and feature aggressive adware.
â€œAdware is a legitimate way for Android coders to generate income when developing free apps,â€ said Chief Security Strategist Catalin Cosoi. â€œHowever, specifically designing childrenâ€™s apps and bundling them with aggressive adware is not exactly a best practice and developers should be under closer scrutiny. Parents would surely disagree with having their children tracked and possibly profiled.â€
Rated low maturity, and bundled with aggressive adware, the apps analyzed by Bitdefender can change the default search engine, display push notifications that promote various products or games, and drain smartphonesâ€™ battery as they constantly run in the background.
The analyzed apps can collect phone numbers, email addresses, unique device IDâ€™s, browsing history, and detailed location tracking data that gets uploaded on remote servers. Neither children nor parents know the extent of the data theyâ€™re leaking. Such details are most often used by marketers to compile advanced user profiles based on browsing behaviors and serve targeted ads based on location.
Also featuring in-game app purchases, parents could find themselves with racked up phone bills as children could easily and inadvertently confirm transactions. Having no control over the information collected or purchasing transactions, parents should closely analyze such apps.
When more than one application that features aggressive adware is installed on a device, thereâ€™s a strong chance their combined effect on system resources could even clog smartphones to the point of diminishing their performance.
To avoid unnecessary strain over devicesâ€™ resources and prevent push and pop-up adware notifications, BitdefenderÂ® advises users to download and install a mobile security solution that is able to detect such behaviors.