The number of mobile apps marketed to kids is growing at a rapid pace, yet a recent report by the Federal Trade Commission raises new concerns about child privacy and the lack of disclosure about the personal data being collected.
The FTC reviewed the promotional pages for 400 apps aimed at kids and found that fewer than 2 percent disclosed what personal information is collected or how it is used. The commission noted that smartphone apps can collect personal data from the device automatically, including the user’s location, phone number, list of contacts and call logs, and share that with others.
The review [PDF] did not delve into what information apps actually are collecting from children, but the FTC is looking into that and plans to release its findings within the next four months.
“Parents should be able to learn before they download apps what information will be used and how it’s shared,” said Patricia Poss, one of the FTC report authors.
As part of its review, the FTC fined a California company on accusations of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which outlaws the collection of data from children younger than 13 without parental approval. By law, companies must explain what information is being collected and how it is used. The California company, W3 Innovations LLC, was fined $50,000 for collecting e-mail addresses and other information from tens of thousands of children without parental consent. It was the FTC’s first mobile app case.
“What makes a lot of parents uncomfortable is when they are not informed about the collection and use of data.”
Privacy concerns have been growing since news surfaced in February that apps for Facebook, Twitter and others accessed – and sometimes copied – entire address books without permission.
Some privacy experts say the problem stems from the unprecedented growth of the mobile app market, not from malicious intent.
“The majority of the issues raised by the FTC and other interested parties are mostly attributable to the speed of the growth of this market,” said Ed Lewis, CEO of Media Chaperone, which develops software for Disney and other companies to help manage content permissions and privacy settings.
Jules Polonetsky of the Future of Privacy Forum think tank says the majority of apps collect limited Continue reading