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FTC: App Developers Collecting Data from Kids
Location Data, Contact Info Collected Without Parents' Consent
by Karl Bode 02:24PM Monday Dec 17 2012
A new study by the Federal Trade Commission notes that the majority of mobile apps aimed at children secretly collect information from children including device IDs, phone numbers, locations, and other private data without their parents' knowledge or consent. According to the report, apps offered for children in the Google Play and Apple App stores continue to fail horribly when it comes to informing parents or children about data collection, despite a survey last year saying the exact same thing.

Roughly 60% of kid-related apps available in the Google Play and Apple App stores examined by the FTC transmitted the device ID to an ad network, traffic analysis firm or another outfit. 14 out of 235 apps transmitted the device phone number and location, and many apps also didn't disclose to parents that the apps involved in-app payments.

"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.

Kids shouldn't feel too badly, since data is routinely collected from their parents as well with little to no acknowledgment or privacy protection. The FTC appears to believe they can be a hands-off regulator here, issuing reports calling for change, despite the fact their own latest report indicates this change isn't happening.

"All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job," said Leibowitz. "We'll do another survey in the future and we will expect to see improvement."

The FTC says they will start examining if these app makers are violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

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JasonOD

@comcast.net

I'm guessing mommy and daddy....

are the ones paying the bill, so technically they own the phone, plan, contract, and whatever apps get onto the phone. Is this more of a parental responsibility issue?

ArrayList
netbus developer
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Evanston, IL

Re: I'm guessing mommy and daddy....

it is. Kids don't own the devices, the parents do.

If we don't want kids using these devices, then don't let them use it.

Maxo
Your tax dollars at work.
Premium,VIP
join:2002-11-04
Tallahassee, FL
said by JasonOD :

are the ones paying the bill, so technically they own the phone, plan, contract, and whatever apps get onto the phone. Is this more of a parental responsibility issue?

Not if the apps are not informing the parents of their intent. If I download "XYZ Fun Game" and it doesn't say it's going to start collecting all this information, how would I know to allow or not allow my kids to play it based on my privacy concerns?
One thing I did not see mentioned in this article is that the Google Play store does tell you what kind of access the app is requesting from your phone, such as location services, etc.
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ropeguru
Premium
join:2001-01-25
Mechanicsville, VA

2 recommendations

OMG...

We need to ban phone apps NOW!!! Do it for the children![/sarcasm]
Androidian

join:2012-12-14
Purcellville, VA
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: OMG...

said by ropeguru:

We need to ban phone apps NOW!!! Do it for the children![/sarcasm]

The children! The children! Won't somebody puh-leaze think of the poor innocent children! LOL
Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
·Embarq Now Centu..
·Comcast
·CenturyLink

2 recommendations

Lawmakers say show me the money.

Any as long as corporatist are the puppet masters, don't expect any action from our corrupt lawmakers. Violating FTC rules collecting data is easily solved by a few contributions to the politicians war chests by the lobbyists and the problem will go away. Welcome to the United Fascist States of America.

pizz
bye bye twc. hello Comcast.
Premium
join:2000-10-27
Astoria, NY

Re: Lawmakers say show me the money.

great post. one of the worst things is losing faith within a company or knowing how companies are doing things.

mrherzog

join:2001-05-06
Calgary, AB
Reviews:
·TELUS

READ the permissions request

The greater issue is that people just say yes to the permission requests (least with BlackBerry Apps anyway)
A good example is Google Maps. The app continuously wants to approve personal data permission when loading.
People will simply say yes because they don't really understand what information is being collected.
Another one is Cineplex theatres. Their app annoyingly wants to access my phones contact lists and other personal info including folders. WHY??

My nature is to ask what the app wants to access and why, and thankfully, BlackBerry is pretty good at blocking these activities without your interaction but what about iOS and Android?

I can see how this has become a major issue, and suspect it will only get worse.
me1212

join:2008-11-20
Pleasant Hill, MO

Re: READ the permissions request

If people don't read the user agreement/permissions request its their own fault I say.
averagedude

join:2002-01-30
San Diego, CA
Reviews:
·Cox HSI

Re: READ the permissions request

said by me1212:

If people don't read the user agreement/permissions request its their own fault I say.

Agreed, but I call it natural selection.
Androidian

join:2012-12-14
Purcellville, VA
Reviews:
·Comcast

1 recommendation

It would be nice to have the Android operating system (and others) allow users to block permissions to apps at a granular level. My suggestion would be as follows:

Step 1: App author writes app and publishes to Marketplace, with a list of specific permissions needed by the app to run properly (as is done today).

Step 2: User downloads app and is presented with a list of permissions that app author requests (as is done today).

Step 3: User can then accept all requested permissions by default, reject all permissions with the click of a button, or enter an interface to fine-tune permissions that s/he wishes to give to the app. In the event that users 'fine tune' the permissions, they acknowledge that certain features of the app might not run properly or even be available.

This seems like a solution that makes everybody happy (well, most people- there will be some developers out there who aren't happy with this process).

Corehhi

join:2002-01-28
Bluffton, SC

Simple

Don't own a smart phone, I don't.
silbaco
Premium
join:2009-08-03
USA

Apps

Actually this is an issue. Apps capture a ridiculous amount of information and often times for no valid reason. They don't do a very good job telling users what it is they capture and they do a horrible job securing the information they collect.

cork1958
Cork
Premium
join:2000-02-26

Re: Apps

said by silbaco:

Actually this is an issue. Apps capture a ridiculous amount of information and often times for no valid reason. They don't do a very good job telling users what it is they capture and they do a horrible job securing the information they collect.

Actually,
This is a MAJOR issue, period! Enough said!!
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