US Trade Commission Concerned About Mobile Apps Aimed at Children

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The USA's Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that it has found little progress in mobile apps that target children in how they handle and display their privacy disclosures and practices over the past year.

An FTC commissioned 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.

"While we think most companies have the best intentions when it comes to protecting kids' privacy, we haven't seen any progress when it comes to making sure parents have the information they need to make informed choices about apps for their kids. In fact, our study shows that kids' apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

Staff examined hundreds of apps for children and looked at disclosures and links on each app's promotion page in the app store, on the app developer's website, and within the app.

According to the report, "most apps failed to provide any information about the data collected through the app, let alone the type of data collected, the purpose of the collection, and who would obtain access to the data. The results also showed that many of the apps shared certain information with third parties -- such as device ID, geolocation, or phone number -- without disclosing that fact to parents. Further, a number of apps contained interactive features - such as advertising, the ability to make in-app purchases, and links to social media - without disclosing these features to parents prior to download."

The report strongly urges all entities in the mobile app industry -- including app stores, app developers, and third parties providing services within the apps -- to accelerate efforts to ensure that parents have the key information they need to make decisions about the apps they download for their children.

The report also states that FTC staff is launching non-public investigations to determine whether certain entities in the mobile app marketplace are violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act or engaging in unfair or deceptive practices in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

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Tags: ftc  mobile apps  USA 

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