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Robert Longley

Mobile Apps Failing to Protect Kids, FTC Says

By December 20, 2012

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Developers of mobile apps for children have made little progress in protecting children's identity and personal information, according to follow-up report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC's report Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade found that too many apps present children with interactive features that allow them to connect to social media Web sites like Facebook, and automatically send their personal information to ad networks, analytics companies, or other third parties, without disclosing these practices to parents.

According to FTC commissioner Julie Brill, while more than 60% of the hundreds of apps examined in the report were collecting the children's personal information, less than 20% provided parents with information about their privacy and data collection practices or how the data collected would be used.

"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," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz in a press release. "In fact, our study shows that kids' apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents."

Also See: Preventing Child Identity Theft

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 report also found that 17% of the apps examined allowed children to make purchases for virtual goods within the app, with prices ranging from 99 cents to $29.99 without parental notification or approval.

The FTC, in its report, strongly urges the mobile app industry -- app stores, app developers, and third parties providing services within the apps - to move quickly to make sure their apps provide parents with the information they need to decide which apps are right and safe for their children to download and use.

"All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job," warned chairman Leibowitz. "We'll do another survey in the future and we will expect to see improvement."

Also See: Protect Your Kids from ID Theft at School


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