The Google Play store is under fire again for including "dangerous or disturbing content" in the Family section. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and 21 other child advocacy groups penned a 99-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) demanding an investigation into Google.
"Google doesn't really have any incentive to clean up its own app store," Josh Golin, executive director of the CCFC, told Buzzfeed. "The things that are concerning and problematic, they actually profit off of."
Golin is referring to the fact that Google gets a 30 percent cut of revenue from every app purchase or in-app purchase from its Android app store.
In the letter, the child advocates said that the behavior exhibited in the apps could result in serious injury, should a child try to replicate it.
The letter singled out the app Crazy Eye Clinic - Doctor X for instructing players to hold a patient's eyes open with clamps and pluck out the eyelashes.
In several games -- including Ear Doctor Clinic Kids Games, Foot Doctor for Kids, and Dentist Games for Kids -- players are instructed to give a patient a shot in the back of the throat or into foot sores. In Doctor X & the Urban Heroes, players could cut clothes off of a patient.
The games were deemed appropriate for kids ages 8 and younger by the Google Play Store. Foot Doctor for Kids was listed as appropriate for those 5 and younger.
In addition, advocates flagged Pregnant Mama Emergency Doctor app, listed as for ages 6 to 12, as inappropriate. In the game, players were told to pour oil over a suggestively dressed pregnant woman to induce labor and then pump blood into her.
Along with inappropriate content, dozens of apps were cited as being out of compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The letter said that 84 games in the Designed for Family category distributed location and unencrypted information to third-party companies, requesting excessive in-app purchases or collecting information from young users without obtaining parental consent.
In addition, several family apps included advertisements for gambling and alcohol, which violate the category's rules.
"Google has known about several of these problems for some time, yet has not taken adequate steps to enforce its own criteria for developers," the letter said. "Thus, it is imperative that the FTC swiftly investigate Google's Play Store Family operations and stop these deceptive practices so that children will be protected."
The Google Play store came under scrutiny for the same reason in October. The University of Michigan Medical School's released a study that found that most apps marketed for kids contained manipulative and distracting ads. Some of the apps were found to be in violation of COPPA.
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- Child advocacy groups wrote a letter to the FTC complaining that multiple apps in the Google Play store display inappropriate content and violate COPPA.
- The Play store came under fire back in October when similar allegations came to light after UMMS released a study about apps in violation of COPPA.
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