FTC: App Makers & Markets Must Do More To Protect Kids Privacy

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a report today concerning the lack of privacy information on apps designed for children.

The report was titled “Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy ‘Disclosures are Dis app ointing’” (yes, really, who knew the FTC has a sense of humor?).

In the report they say they looked at a sampling of mobile apps designed for kids. Of those, they found that almost none had a way for parents to know what information was being collected while their child uses the app.

The FTC pointed out that apps have the ability to track a user’s precise location, plus have access to phone numbers, contacts, call logs, device identifiers, and other information stored on the tablet or smart phone. They say such information has legitimate purposes, such as displaying maps or participating in interactive games, but can also be collected and used in a manner unknown to parents.

As part of their investigation, the FTC searched both the Android Market and Apple’s App Store for apps with the keyword “kids”. Of the over 11,000 results, the FTC selected a sampling of 200 from the top rankings in each store. They then investigated the promotion pages and websites of those 400 apps.

The FTC notes that they did not actually download the apps, or test apps to see what data they collected. They used information available to consumers prior to download to make their findings.

When it comes to the notification of what information is collected by an app and how it’s used, the FTC found practically nothing. In their report they said:

“In most instances, staff was unable to determine from the information on the app store page or the developer’s landing page whether an app collected any data, let alone the type of data collected, the purpose for such collection, and who collected or obtained access to such data.”

In their conclusion, The FTC stated:

“… the app stores, the developers, and the third parties providing services within the apps – must do more to ensure that parents have access to clear, concise and timely information about the apps they download for their children. Parents should be able to learn, before downloading an app for their children, what data will be collected, how the data will be used, and who will obtain access to the data.”

The FTC’s report includes a great deal of additional information about apps designed for children. The full report can be read here.

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