Mobile Apps for Kids Lack Privacy Protections

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on December 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Before you start downloading apps for your kids, you might want to take a moment to think about their privacy.

The Federal Trade Commission recently published its second report on mobile apps for kids, and the results haven't improved. The first survey was published in February 2012, and there's been little change in the privacy protection and disclosures available for apps.

What app developers aren't telling you is that they're often selling your information to advertisers or other third parties. If the app is on your kid's phone, they're selling your child's information too.

The FTC surveyed 200 mobile apps that have the keyword "kids" to see how they dealt with user privacy, reports CNET.

While only a small percentage of the apps said they included ads prior to download, 58 percent of them had ads within the app. A whopping 60 percent of the ads sent user information to the developer, advertisers, or a third party, according to the FTC.

That includes information about location taken from a phone's GPS.

The FTC already has some rules to protect kids when they're surfing the Internet. But those come from the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which was passed in 1998 and became effective in 2000. That was long before mobile phone apps.

COPPA does provide some online protections for children. The law prohibits online companies from collecting personal data about children without parental consent. It specifically applies to children under 13.

Now the FTC is asking developers to add enough information for parents to make informed decisions about the apps they allow their kids to use.

As part of its report, the FTC asked developers to come up with "best practices" to protect user data privacy and provide easy-to-understand information to parents, reports CNN.

As a federal agency, the FTC could make regulations for developers to follow, specifying what kinds of disclosures and policies would be mandatory. But so far the agency hasn't proposed any new rules.

It seems they're hoping the industry will regulate itself. But if that doesn't happen, either the FTC or Congress may find a way to legislate those changes.

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