App Store: NGO gives Apple bad marks for the protection of minors

The NGO Tech Transparency Projects criticizes the protection of minors in Apple’s App Store. Young people could install and use adult content without any problems – as long as parents don’t take action themselves and activate restrictions, which are not always easy to find on iOS and iPadOS.

This is the result of a current study by the Tech Transparency Project , in which 75 apps from the US app store were tested, which are listed among the most popular apps in the social networks and lifestyle categories.

Already complete access at the age of 14

For the test, the experts created the account of a fictitious 14-year-old teenager. The child safety function was deliberately not used because it is deactivated by default and must be set up and switched on by the parents themselves.

In their report, the researchers primarily criticize the fact that in order to gain access to content that is actually unsuitable for their age, it would be sufficient to nod off Apple’s age request and thereby confirm that the respective user is over 17 years old. Content such as chat or dating apps, but also games of chance and applications with pornographic content could then be downloaded and installed from the App Store – including registration and use. The account used was not checked in the background, although Apple knew the age of the user.

No verification of the Apple ID

According to the report, it was also possible to log in to applications protected by the Apple ID. For this aspect, too, the researchers list a number of apps and services for which this was possible without restriction. With other apps, where you could set up your own account and choose the age yourself, underage users had an even easier time – and there was no check here either. Most apps only blocked access when using a Facebook account.

Basically there is no protection

Based on the findings, Tech Transparency Project does not see protection for minors from this unsuitable content as not given – especially not against the background that Apple repeatedly emphasizes that the App Store is a safe place for children. It is more the responsibility of the parents to activate and set up the parental controls so that there is protection at all. However, this requires technical understanding and time, because the settings are not that easy to find: The corresponding blocking is done via the menu item “Screen time” and there rather incidentally in the further course of the setup and only together with this. This function can not be found as child safety.

App store
App store
Security as an argument for the App Store again and again

With this, however, Apple is contradicting itself, because especially with regard to the “app store compulsory” on iOS and iPadOS devices, which has been addressed in many recent disputes, the company repeatedly leads the security as well as the child and youth protection as one of the main arguments.

Another contradiction can also be seen in Apple’s current action against child pornography. Ever since the company announced plans to check images on the user’s device using hash values ​​before transferring them to the iCloud for corresponding content, the criticism that more and more people and organizations are joining has been increasing , and with it the pressure .

This project is also justified with the argument that children and young people want to protect. The measures envisaged for this go well beyond what the group would have to undertake to better enforce the protection of minors in the App Store.

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