New app checking tool allows educators to see who is tracking and sharing data
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > New app checking tool allows educators to see who is tracking and sharing data

New app checking tool allows educators to see who is tracking and sharing data

by Freya Lucas

June 16, 2021

With more and more Australian children engaging with app based technologies, the Australian Council of Children and the Media (ACCM) has developed a new service recently launched in cooperation with AppCensus.


The program will enable parents and educators to check what permissions apps request and use, plus what personal identifiers are collected, whether they are passed on to others (and if so to whom), and whether this is done securely.


“Avoiding apps that track children, gather their personal data and identifiers, and pass that information on to unknown others, will be much easier very soon,” said Western Sydney University Professor of Law Elizabeth Handsley, ACCM President.


Professor Handsley worked with Dr Serge Egelman, cofounder of the US AppCensus Laboratory in San Francisco to provide some solutions for parents and educators. 


Dr Egelman is a prominent researcher in this field and was invited to provide expert testimony to the US Senate Hearing on “Protecting kids online: Internet privacy and manipulative marketing” on May 18.


“Australian privacy law offers no specific protections for children online,” Professor Handsley explained, “and so the onus has (unfairly) been placed on parents (and educators) to protect children. They have been left to scrutinise and decode the long and complicated privacy policies of each app children use. Even then, these don’t clearly state what information the app will or will not collect.”


The new service will commence with a set of privacy checks of the top 50 Android apps used by children in Australia, and will be regularly updated.


“Protecting children’s privacy is really important. There can be significant adverse impacts if it’s neglected, and it’s worth the time and effort that may be needed for parents (and educators) to equip themselves,” ACCM’s Vice-President, Associate Professor Wayne Warburton of Macquarie University said. 


Associate Professor Warburton’s team provided research which supports a range of other resources available on ACCM’s new webpage, designed to motivate parents (and educators)  and equip them to manage their children’s online privacy.


“ACCM is very grateful to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network whose financial support made the project possible,” Professor Handsley said in closing. 


To learn more, please visit the ACCM website, here

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