When your kids play Angry Birds or Motion Math on a mobile device, you most likely know where they are and what they’re doing. Did you know the app maker may have that info as well?
The FTC says app developers are making little progress when it comes to protecting your kid’s privacy. According to a new report, app developers aren’t telling parents what kind of data is being collected and who has access to it.
FTC staffers analyzed 200 children’s apps, and found “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.”
Alan Simpson, vice president of policy at Common Sense Media, tells Mashable the reason parents are fearful of how data is being collected and used is because they haven’t been given any information about it.
He says companies need to do more to inform parents about data use, whether they’re tracking kids or selling the data. Knowing what they’re doing with it makes for a more trusting environment.
Some of the issues that worry parents are direct advertising to kids, the ability to geo-locate them and the capability of in-app purchasing.
As technology evolves, so does the way data is collected and used. Couple that with the addition of smartphones and GPS-enabled devices in our lives, and you have a strong argument for updating the COPPA laws to include mobile devices.
Simpson says educational apps are particularly troublesome. “If parents are seeking a learning app as a tutorial, and find out that app is a source of marketing, or chat functionality, there’s gonna be a backlash.”
Warren Buckleitner, editor of Children’s Technology Review, agrees. He tells Mashable “many free apps are nothing more than sophisticated commercials that mix high interest play patterns like raising animals with hooks to collect information. This recent FTC report is an important first step by documenting how some of these techniques work.”
So how do you check your kids’ apps? See how they work, play with them before you hand them off to your kids. Read the privacy statement and understand what’s being collected. If it’s anonymous, and collected in an effort to improve the app, perhaps you won’t mind. If it’s targeting ads to your children, then you can make an informed decision.