The Federal Trade Commission issued a new staff report, Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade, examining the privacy disclosures and practices of apps offered for children in the Google Play and the Apple App stores. Since FTC staff’s first survey of kids’ mobile apps last year, little progress was found toward giving parents the information they need to determine what data is being collected from their children, how it is being shared, or who will have access to it. The report also finds that many of the apps surveyed included interactive features, such as connecting to social media, and sent information from the mobile device to advertising networks, analytics companies, or other third parties, without disclosing these practices to parents.
The FTC examined hundreds of apps for children and looked at disclosures and links on each app’s promotion page in the app store, on the app developer’s website, 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. Even more troubling, the results showed that many of the apps shared certain information with third parties—such as device ID, geolocation, or phone number—without disclosing that fact to parents. Further, a number of apps contained interactive features—such as advertising, the ability to make in-app purchases, and links to social media—without disclosing these features to parents prior to download.”
The report strongly urges all entities in the mobile app industry to accelerate efforts to ensure that parents have the key information they need to make decisions about the apps they download for their children. The FTC staff is also developing new consumer education directed to parents to help navigate the mobile app marketplace and avoid apps that fail to provide adequate disclosures.
For more information on the FTC report, read the full report here.