US watchdog the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report into the privacy practices of apps targeting children, noting that “our study shows that kids’ apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents”.
In a statement, Jon Leibowitz, chairman, said: “While we think most companies have the best intentions when it comes 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.”
Staff from the FTC examined “hundreds” of apps for children, and looked at the privacy information found in promotion pages in app stores, on developer websites, and within the app.
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.”
It was found that many apps shared information with third parties which included device ID, geolocation or phone number – without disclosing this to parents.
A number of apps also contained features such as advertising, the ability to make in-app purchases, and links to social media – again, without parents being informed prior to download.
According to the research, only 20 percent of the apps reviewed disclosed any information about app privacy practices, while nearly 60 percent transmit information back to the app developer, or, “more commonly, to an advertising network, analytics company, or other third party”.
It was also noted that a “relatively small number of third parties received information from a large number of apps” – meaning that these players could “potentially develop detailed profiles of the children based on their behaviour in different apps”.
The report, Mobile apps for kids: disclosures still not making the grade, is available here.