The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was critical about the way apps targeting children address data privacy issues, arguing that its investigation “shows that neither the app stores nor the app developers provide the information parents need to determine what data is being collected from their children, how it’s being shared, or who will have access to it.”
In a statement, the watchdog said that “while there was a diverse pool of kids apps created by hundreds of different developers, there was almost no information about the data collection and sharing on the Apple App Store promotion pages and little information beyond general permission statements on the Android Market promotion pages.”
According to Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Commission: “Companies that operate in the mobile marketplace provide great benefits, but they must step up to the plate and provide easily accessible basic information, so that parents can make informed decisions about the apps their kids use. Right now, it is almost impossible to figure out which apps collect data and what they do with it.”
“The kids app ecosystem needs to wake up, and we want to work collaboratively with industry to help ensure parents have the information they need,” he continued.
The FTC is advising that “all members of the app ecosystem should play an active role in providing key information to parents.” Developers are advised to provide data practice information “in simple and short disclosures,” including whether apps connect to social media and if they contain ads.
App stores also have a role to play, with the Commission noting that “as gatekeepers of the app marketplace, the app stores should do more.”
However, the Application Developers Alliance, while supportive of its intentions, issued a statement that was critical of the FTC investigation. “Unfortunately, the FTC seems to have judged app publishers’ privacy practices without actually downloading the apps, and only upon download would publishers’ privacy practices become clear. The Commission’s methodology is disappointing,” said Jon Potter, president of the Alliance.
The FTC’s report, Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures are Disappointing, is available here.