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    FTC Report Raises Privacy Questions About Mobile Applications for Children

    The Federal Trade Commission has released a new report, “Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures Are Disappointing” (FTC pdf; archive pdf), discussing the results of a survey of mobile apps for children. “The survey 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 is being shared, or who will have access to it,” the agency said in a press release. Here’s more from the report’s overview:

    The market for mobile applications has experienced explosive growth over the past three and a half years. When Apple’s iTunes App Store and Google’s Android Market first launched in 2008, smartphone users could choose from about 600 apps. Today, there are more than 500,000 apps in the Apple App store and 380,000 apps in the Android Market, which consumers can access from a variety of mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. […]

    This rapidly growing market provides enormous opportunities and benefits for app users of all ages, but raises questions about users’ privacy, especially when the users are children and teens. Mobile apps can capture a broad range of user information from the device automatically – including the user’s precise geolocation, phone number, list of contacts, call logs, unique device identifiers, and other information stored on the mobile device – and can share this data with a large number of possible recipients. These capabilities can provide beneficial services to consumers – for example, access to maps and directions, and the ability to play interactive games with other users – but they also can be used by apps to collect detailed personal information in a manner parents cannot detect. […]

    This report highlights the lack of information available to parents prior to downloading mobile apps for their children, and calls on industry to provide greater transparency about their data practices.

    Read the full report for the FTC’s recommendations on how to better protect children’s privacy in mobile applications.

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