Privacy report card for parental control solutions
Mohammad Mannan and Amr Youssef
The digital age has introduced new challenges for parents in many areas concerning the everyday lives of young children and adolescents. Excessive screen time, inappropriate content and other risky online behaviours are of major concern for parents. This makes parental control network devices (e.g., Wi-Fi routers) and software applications a very common solution to help parents in regulating their children’s online activities.
On the other hand, the majority of such parental control solutions have access to a significant amount of privacy-sensitive data that could be targeted by attackers. Consequently, while these parental control tools should provide peace of mind for parents, they may introduce serious privacy and security issues that can put children at risk.
In this report, the researchers presented an experimental framework for systematically evaluating privacy and security issues in parental control software and hardware tools. By utilizing the developed framework, the researchers provided the first comprehensive study of parental control tools on multiple platforms including network devices, Windows applications, and Android apps. The analysis uncovered pervasive security and privacy vulnerabilities that can lead to leakage of private information, or allow an adversary to fully control the parental control solution and bully, or lure the child. Finally, based on the researchers’ findings and analysis, some recommendations for developers of these parental control tools have been provided.
Project deliverables are available in the following language(s):
OPC Funded Project
This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.
Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering (CIISE)
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West
Montreal, QC, Canada H3G 1M8
514-848-2424 ext. 8972
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