Experts in the Media

Meg Coffey – Sunrise

Social media strategist

Parents warned over popular apps selling personal data of millions of Aussie kids

Pokémon Go, Roblox, Messenger and YouTube are popular among millions of Aussie kids. This is the data they’re collecting from your children.
What data are the apps collecting?

Social media strategist Meg Coffey told Sunrise major tech companies were selling the data obtained from these apps to use for advertising.

“That is why we get the apps for free, because they can take all of that information, and they can sell it for advertising,” she said.

Coffey, however, also warned parents should assume these apps could be using all the private information available to them.

“You have to assume they are collecting all of the information available,” she said.

“It could be your children’s friends, search history, your IP address, but also your exact location.”

Coffey explained the privacy concerns could become problematic when children were involved, since they didn’t understand the risks.

“They don’t have the education,” she said.

“And mind you, some parents don’t necessarily have the required education either, but kids just download these apps without reading the terms and conditions, partially because they are pages and pages long.”

Which apps are experts warning about?

Some 12,000 children’s apps have potential access to personal information, but have no detected privacy policy, the research by Pixalate found.

The most popular children’s apps the research found could pose potential security risks include:

  • Pokémon Go
  • Animal Jam
  • Roblox
  • Messenger Kids
  • YouTube Kids

“There are a lot of them, but those would be most of the ones most of us would be familiar with,” Coffey said.

In fact, experts say many apps, for both children and adults, have the potential to share personal data, however, children’s apps appear to have a greater risk.

On children’s apps, personal information is 42 per cent more likely to be shared with advertisers, the study said.

What can be done?

In terms of what can be done to prevent these apps accessing and selling personal data, Coffey said more regulations were needed to protect users.

She explained that from an individual level, however, parents should monitor a child’s activities and always read the terms and conditions when downloading a new app.

“If there is a prompt that asks ‘do you want to allow this app to access your data?’ you can say yes or no,” she said.

“I strongly recommend you answer ‘no, I do not allow the app to track my data’.

“That’s about the limits of what you can actually do.”