New FTC Report Looks at Privacy Issues With Apps for Children
From a FTC Report Announcement and Summary:
The Federal Trade Commission issued a new staff report, “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade,” examining the privacy disclosures and practices of apps offered for children in the Google Play and Apple App stores. The report details the results of the FTC’s second survey of kids’ mobile apps.
Since FTC staff’s first survey of kids’ mobile apps in 2011, staff found little progress toward giving parents the information they need to determine what data is being collected from their children, how it is being shared, or who will have access to it. The report also finds that many of the apps surveyed included interactive features, such as connecting to social media, and sent information from the mobile device to ad networks, analytics companies, or other third parties, without disclosing these practices to parents.
The survey found that:
- Parents are not being provided with information about what data an app collects, who will have access to that data, and how it will be used. Only 20 percent of the apps staff reviewed disclosed any information about the app’s privacy practices.
- Many apps (nearly 60 percent of the apps surveyed) are transmitting information from a users’ device back to the app developer or, more commonly, to an advertising network, analytics company, or other third party.
- A relatively small number of third parties received information from a large number of apps. This means the third parties that receive information from multiple apps could potentially develop detailed profiles of the children based on their behavior in different apps.
- Many apps contain interactive features – such as advertising, links to social media, or the ability to purchase goods within an app – without disclosing those features to parents prior to download.
- Fifty-eight percent of the apps reviewed contained advertising within the app, while only 15 percent disclosed the presence of advertising prior to download.
- Twenty-two percent of the apps contained links to social networking services, while only nine percent disclosed that fact.
- Seventeen percent of the apps reviewed allow kids to make purchases for virtual goods within the app, with prices ranging from 99 cents to $29.99. Although both stores provided certain indicators when an app contained in-app purchasing capabilities, these indicators were not always prominent and, even if noticed, could be difficult for many parents to understand.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.