Kids’ Apps Siphon ‘Alarming Amount’ of Data, says US Trade Commission
Since the FTC’s first report last year, the body still says that ‘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’.
Device ID, location and phone numbers tracked
The Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade report found that 80 per cent of the apps surveyed did not disclose any information about privacy practices. 60 per cent transmit information– including device ID, geolocation, or phone number - either back to the app developer or, more commonly, to ad networks, analytics companies or other third parties. The report highlighted that given the small number of companies receiving information from a large number of apps – they could potentially build detailed profiles of the children based on their user behaviour.
58 per cent of the apps reviewed contained advertising but only 15 per cent disclosed this prior to download. 22 per cent of the apps contained links to social networking services, while only nine per cent disclosed this. 17 per cent allow children to make purchases of virtual goods, with prices ranging from 99 cents to $29.99.
'Companies need to do a better job'
"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. "All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job.”
Action from industry needed
While both stores provide certain indicators when an app contains in-app purchasing capabilities, the report said that these indicators were not always prominent and could be difficult for parents to understand.
The report strongly urges the industry – including app stores, app developers and third parties – to accelerate efforts to ensure that parents have the key information. It wants mobile companies to implement the FTC Privacy Report recommendations, which include: privacy protections in the design of mobile products, easier information for parents and greater transparency.