Data collection has been a major news story for months, ever since it was revealed that Facebook was collecting user data without their knowledge and the social media giant became embroiled in a massive voter-profiling scandal. Since then, more and more people have become aware of just how pervasive data collection is when they use social media and the internet, and even with some third-party apps. We've become more careful about how and what we share online, and have locked down our settings that reveal information like location. That should be enough to prevent a company from collecting certain data, but a new lawsuit filed by the state of New Mexico against Google and other app makers is calling that into question.
The state of New Mexico is suing Google and other app makers for illegally collecting data on children, thereby putting them at risk. The lawsuit alleges that several apps geared toward kids collect data such as location, even when users have location services turned off or are not using the app. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says this poses a major danger to kids, and their physical location and home or school address could be potentially revealed by anyone with access to that data who works for the companies.
That's not the worst of it, either. Balderas maintains that this data collection is in fact a direct violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA is a federally-mandated protection act that forces companies to reveal what information they mine from child users, and how they use that data. It also says that companies must share that information with parents and get consent before using that data in any other way.
Balderas does not believe that is happening, but Google and other companies named in the suit are insisting that all of their apps that are geared toward kids and families follow the law in regards to data collection. The lawsuit seeks a court mandate that will force companies to follow the laws when it comes to apps for kids and families. If you or your kids use apps for kids from Google or Tiny Lab (another company named in the suit), it might be a good idea to delete it for now.