Children’s Privacy at Risk: FTC Issues Warning About Mobile Apps

By Jack Phillips
Epoch Times Staff
Created: December 10, 2012 Last Updated: December 14, 2012
Related articles: United States » National News
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A customer pays at a register with a smartphone application on December 6, 2012 in France. (Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

A customer pays at a register with a smartphone application on December 6, 2012 in France. (Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

Parents should be wary of letting their children use hundreds of popular mobile apps on Google and Apple devices because the apps collect personal information and share it with advertisers, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission warned on Monday in a report.

The FTC noted “little progress” in the fast-growing industry’s handling of privacy issues in the previous year. These apps do not provide parents with “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,” reads a press release from the agency.

The makers of the apps likely have good intentions regarding kids’ privacy the FTC said, but an alarming amount of personal information is handed over to third parties without telling the children or their parents.

“All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job. We’ll do another survey in the future and we will expect to see improvement,” FTC head Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.

Without giving names or how many, the FTC said it surveyed hundreds of apps for kids--including some of the most popular games--looking at how information is disclosed. 

Nearly 60 percent surveyed were transmitting information about children back to the app developer, an advertising company, an analytic service, or another third party, the commission said. Only around 20 percent of the apps disclosed information about data collection.

Furthermore, a relatively small number of apps gathered information from a number of apps, meaning that a company could create a profile of a child based on apps used and how the child uses them, the FTC said.

“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 said.

“Even more troubling, the results showed that many of the apps shared certain information with third parties–such as device ID, geolocation, or phone number.”

Some of the apps contained advertising, links to social media, and included the ability to make purchases inside the program, the agency said.

The FTC is now determining if developers who make mobile apps are violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or are partaking in unfair or deceptive violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

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