Tool to protect children’s online privacy :-

A University of Texas at Dallas study of 100 mobile apps for kids found that 72 violated a federal law aimed at protecting children’s online privacy.

Dr. Kanad Basu, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and lead author of the study, along with colleagues elsewhere, developed a tool that can determine whether an Android game or other mobile app complies with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The researchers introduced and tested their “COPPA Tracking by Checking Hardware-Level Activity,” or COPPTCHA, tool in a study published in the March edition of IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security. The tool was 99% accurate. Researchers continue to improve the technology, which they plan to make available for download at no cost.Basu said games and other apps that violate COPPA pose privacy risks that could make it possible for someone to determine a child’s identity and location. He said the risk is heightened as more people are accessing apps from home, rather than public places, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Suppose the app collects information showing that there is a child on Preston Road in Plano, Texas, downloading the app. A trafficker could potentially get the user’s email ID and geographic location and try to kidnap the child. It’s really, really scary,” Basu said.

Apps can access personal identifiable information, including names, email addresses, phone numbers, location, audio and visual recordings, and unique identifiers for devices such as an international mobile equipment identity (IMEI), media access control (MAC) addresses, Android ID and Android advertising ID. The advertising ID, for example, allows app developers to collect information on users’ interests, which they can then sell to advertisers.

“When you download an app, it can access a lot of information on your cellphone,” Basu said. “You have to keep in mind that all this info can be collected by these apps and sent to third parties. What do they do with it? They can pretty much do anything. We should be careful about this.”

The researchers’ technique accesses a device’s special-purpose register, a type of temporary data-storage location within a microprocessor that monitors various aspects of the microprocessor’s function. Whenever an app transmits data, the activity leaves footprints that can be detected by the special-purpose register.

COPPA requires that websites and online services directed to children obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from anyone younger than 13; however, as Basu’s research found, many popular apps do not comply. He found that many popular games designed specifically for young children revealed users’ Android IDs, Android advertising IDs and device descriptions.

Basu recommends that parents use caution when downloading or allowing children to download apps.

“If your kid asks you to download a popular game app, you’re likely to download it,” Basu said. “A problem with our society is that many people are not aware of — or don’t care about — the threats in terms of privacy.”

Basu advises keeping downloads to a minimum.

“I try to limit my downloading of apps as much as possible,” Basu said. “I don’t download apps unless I need to.”

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Intel Corp. and New York University also contributed to the work.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Texas at Dallas. Original written by Kim Horner. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Kanad Basu, Suha Sabi Hussain, Ujjwal Gupta, Ramesh Karri. COPPTCHA: COPPA Tracking by Checking Hardware-Level ActivityIEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, 2020; 15: 3213 DOI: 10.1109/TIFS.2020.2983287

Children of academics exhibit more stress:-

Starting university is an exciting phase for everyone. However, children from academic households exhibit significantly more stress during this period than those from non-academic families. A Swiss-German research team has found this out by analysing the hair of female first-year students. Study authors Professor Alex Bertrams from the University of Bern and Dr. Nina Minkley from Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have concluded that students may be stressed by the fear of jeopardising the social status of their families if they fail their degrees. They published their report in Frontiers of Psychiatry on 5 June 2020.

Stress hormone accumulates in the hair

In stressful situations, the body releases an increased amount of the hormone cortisol, which also reaches growing hair and is stored there if the levels remain high over a lengthy period of time. By analysing the hair, researchers can identify the phases when a person had more stress.

In order to find out whether the stress levels of young people from different family backgrounds differ when they’re starting university, the research team recruited a total of 71 test persons. “The only inclusion criteria were that they started their first semester and that they had sufficiently long hair,” explains Nina Minkley from the Behavioural Biology and Didactics of Biology research group at RUB. “In the end, this meant that we recruited almost only women, and we decided not to include the few eligible men to avoid falsifying the results.”

Strands of hair and questionnaires

The participants supplied the research team with three thin strands of hair each, which were cut off near the scalp. Since a hair grows about one centimetre per month, the researchers examined the latest one and a half centimetres that had grown in the six weeks since the beginning of the semester. In addition, the participants filled out questionnaires in which they provided information about their parents’ educational background. They were also asked about the stress they subjectively perceived.

It emerged that first-year students from academic households where at least one parent had a university degree exhibit higher stress levels than those from non-academic households, even though they didn’t differ in other respects. The subjectively perceived stress levels, for example, were the same.

Stress due to impending loss of status

The research team interprets this result as an indication of female students from academic households being under greater pressure, because failing their study would result in a loss of status for them and their families. This is in line with findings in sociological studies, which have shown that children of academics tend to go to university even if their academic performance isn’t expected to be successful, based on their school grades. “Children of non-academics, on the other hand, can only win and are therefore probably less stressed,” concludes Minkley.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Ruhr-University BochumNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Alex Bertrams, Nina Minkley. Preliminary Indications That First Semester Students From Academic Households Exhibit Higher Hair Cortisol Concentrations Than Their Peers From Nonacademic HouseholdsFrontiers in Psychiatry, 2020; 11 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00580

Achievement isn’t why more men are majoring in physics, engineering and computer science:-

While some STEM majors have a one-to-one male-to-female ratio, physics, engineering and computer science (PECS) majors consistently have some of the largest gender imbalances among U.S. college majors — with about four men to every woman in the major. In a new study published today in the peer-reviewed research journal, Science, NYU researchers find that this disparity is not caused by higher math or science achievement among men. On the contrary, the scholars found that men with very low high-school GPAs in math and science and very low SAT math scores were choosing these math-intensive majors just as often as women with much higher math and science achievement.

“Physics, engineering and computer science fields are differentially attracting and retaining lower-achieving males, resulting in women being underrepresented in these majors but having higher demonstrated STEM competence and academic achievement,” said Joseph R. Cimpian, lead researcher and associate professor of economics and education policy at NYU Steinhardt.

Cimpian and his colleagues analyzed data from almost 6,000 U.S. high school students over seven years — from the start of high school into the students’ junior year of college. When the researchers ranked students by their high-school math and science achievement, they noticed that male students in the 1st percentile were majoring in PECS at the same rate as females in the 80th percentile, demonstrating a stark contrast between the high academic achievement of the female students majoring in PECS compared to their male peers.

The researchers also reviewed the data for students who did not intend to major in PECS fields, but later decided to. They found that the lowest achieving male student was as least as likely to join one of these majors as the highest achieving female student.

The rich dataset the researchers used was collected by the U.S. Department of Education, and it contained measures of many factors previously linked to the gender gap in STEM. The NYU team tested whether an extensive set of factors could explain the gender gap equally well among high, average, and low achieving students. While the gender gap in PECS among the highest achievers could be explained by other factors in the data, such as a student’s prior career aspirations and confidence in their science abilities, these same factors could not explain the higher rates of low-achieving men in these fields.

This new work suggests that interventions to improve gender equity need to become more nuanced with respect to student achievement.

“Our results suggest that boosting STEM confidence and earlier career aspirations might raise the numbers of high-achieving women in PECS, but the same kinds of interventions are less likely to work for average and lower achieving girls, and that something beyond all these student factors is drawing low-achieving men to these fields,” said Cimpian.

“This new evidence, combined with emerging literature on male-favoring cultures that deter women in PECS, suggests that efforts to dismantle barriers to women in these fields would raise overall quality of students,” continued Cimpian.

Story Source:

Materials provided by New York UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Joseph R. Cimpian, Taek H. Kim, Zachary T. Mcdermott. Understanding persistent gender gaps in STEMScience, 2020 DOI: 10.1126/science.aba7377

Cite This Page:

New York University. “Achievement isn’t why more men are majoring in physics, engineering and computer science.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2020. <>.