Of 50 popular smartphone games, not a single one is harmless. "Free" apps can be very expensive and often lack data and child protection. This is the conclusion reached by Stiftung Warentest and jugendschutz.net, the joint competence center of the federal and state governments for the protection of minors on the Internet. Together, they examined 50 popular and top-selling apps approved for children for child protection and consumer traps. "What we found is sobering," says Danielle Leven, project manager for the study at Stiftung Warentest.
19 apps do too little to protect children from bullying and inappropriate contact by strangers. 19 apps are annoying with advertising that is mixed in with the game without clear labeling. Money traps are numerous apps that providers offer as free. Many are programmed so that players initially make great progress, but then have to buy resources to continue playing immediately. In three games, purchases cost up to almost 350 euros. Prices are often not transparent and the overview of costs can quickly be lost.
Stiftung Warentest and jugendschutz.net consider data protection and terms and conditions to be appropriate in only 4 of 50 apps. Most of them collect data from the players, quite a few contact several advertising networks right at the start of the game, one app already has 87 contacts with 13 Internet servers at the start. More than half of the apps send data that can be used to identify users. In the test, 24 apps reward players for logging in with Facebook credentials. Since Facebook excludes users under 13, younger people are tempted to sign up anyway with a false age statement. By linking Facebook, more data can be collected.
How parents can noticeably reduce the risks for their children and accounts is explained in the detailed test, which appears in the July issue of the magazine test (on newsstands from 29.06.2017) and is already available at www.test.de/spieleapps.
jugendschutz.net participated in the study as part of a project funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection.
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