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Chapter by Melissa Ngo

"The Myth of Security Under Camera Surveillance"


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    FTC Report: Little Progress Addressing Privacy Concerns With Mobile Apps for Kids

    The Federal Trade Commission has issued a new report on mobile applications for children. “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade” (Commission pdf; archive pdf) examines ”the privacy disclosures and practices of apps offered for children in the Google Play and Apple App stores.  The report details the results of the FTC’s second survey of kids’ mobile apps,” the FTC said in a press release. The FTC said:

    Since FTC staff’s first survey of kids’ mobile apps in 2011, staff found little progress 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 ad networks, analytics companies, or other third parties, without disclosing these practices to parents. [...]

    Staff examined hundreds of apps for children and looked at disclosers 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 survey found that:

    • Parents are not being provided with information about what data an app collects, who will have access to that data, and how it will be used.  Only 20 percent of the apps staff reviewed disclosed any information about the app’s privacy practices.
    • Many apps (nearly 60 percent of the apps surveyed) are transmitting information from a users’ device back to the app developer or, more commonly, to an advertising network, analytics company, or other third party. [...]
    • Many apps contain interactive features – such as advertising, links to social media, or the ability to purchase goods within an app – without disclosing those features to parents prior to download.  [...]

    The report also urges industry to implement recommendations in the recent FTC Privacy Report including:

    • Incorporating privacy protections into the design of mobile products and services;
    • Offering parents easy-to-understand choices about the data collection and sharing through kids’ apps; and
    • Providing greater transparency about how data is collected, used, and shared through kids’ apps.

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