Pixalate Releases Children’s Privacy Risks in ‘Santa Calling’ Mobile Apps Report 2023: 76% of Apps Request Access to Sensitive Personal Data

LONDON, UK, Dec. 21, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Pixalate, the global market-leading ad fraud protection, privacy, and compliance analytics platform, today released the Children's Privacy Risks in ‘Santa Calling’ Mobile Apps 2023 Report. The report analyzes apps used to make phone calls or video calls to Santa Claus, with “Santa” or “Calling” in the app title.

Pixalate conducted a comprehensive analysis of all Santa Calling apps. In total 231 apps were analyzed, with 16 found to be subject to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule. Pixalate identified these 16 apps are likely directed towards children, access the internet, are registered in the U.S. and/or have advertising traffic in the U.S., which makes them subject to COPPA regulations.

Santa Calling mobile apps provide merriment and entertainment by simulating an audio or video call with Santa Claus. To receive a call, users are required to download the app and enter a few details, such as the recipient's name, phone number, whether they are on the ‘naughty' or ‘nice’ list, or what they want for Christmas. Some of this information is considered personally identifiable and protected under several U.S. online privacy laws, such as COPPA. Therefore, these apps may require additional steps to safeguard and protect users’ and specifically children’s privacy. 

Key Findings:

  • 231 Santa Calling apps were found across Google (190) & Apple (41) app stores as of Q3 2023, with 39M+ downloads (Google only)
  • 19 Santa Calling apps had no detectable privacy policy
  • 90% of Santa Calling apps have no identified country of registration
  • 76% request access to the user’s camera, a sensitive permission
  • 16 Santa Calling apps are likely subject to enforcement under COPPA 
    • 87% of these apps had no age gate and did not facilitate verified parental consent
    • 81% request access to the camera (personal information under COPPA) 
    • 88% of these apps send user GPS coordinates in the advertising bid stream

Personal Information Under The COPPA Rule
Online contact information, screen or user name functioning as online contact information, and photographs, videos, or audio files containing a child’s image or voice are personal information under the COPPA Rule. Persistent identifiers such as IP address, any unique device identifiers, and geolocation including GPS coordinates sufficient to identify street name and name of a city or town, are also personal information under the Rule. Other information concerning the child or parents, that is collected online and combined with a defined identifier also qualifies as personal information.  Mobile apps request access to certain device permissions in order to operate, such as access to the device’s camera, microphone or geolocation which can result in collection of personal information.

Download the full report and list of Santa Calling apps.

Visit Pixalate.com to explore more about our privacy resources. 

About Pixalate
Pixalate is a global market-leading ad fraud protection, privacy, and compliance analytics platform. Pixalate works 24/7 to guard your reputation and grow your media value by offering the only system of coordinated solutions across display, app, video, and CTV for the detection and elimination of ad fraud. Pixalate is an MRC-accredited service for the detection and filtration of sophisticated invalid traffic (SIVT) across desktop and mobile web, mobile in-app, and CTV advertising. www.pixalate.com


The content of this press release, and the Children’s Privacy Risk in Santa Calling Mobile Apps Report 2023  (the "Report"), reflect Pixalate's opinions with respect to factors that Pixalate believes can be useful to the digital media industry, individuals and parents/guardians of children aged 13 and under. Any data shared is grounded in Pixalate’s proprietary technology and analytics, which Pixalate is continuously evaluating and updating. Any references to outside sources should not be construed as endorsements. Pixalate’s opinions are just that, opinions, which means that they are neither facts nor guarantees. Pixalate is sharing this data not to impugn the standing or reputation of any entity, person or app, but, instead, to report findings and trends pertaining to privacy and information security practices and compliance across mobile apps in the time period studied.


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