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December 11, 2012

US regulators probe mobile app developing firms over violation of children’s privacy

Most of the apps failed to offer any information regarding the data collected through the app

By CBR Staff Writer

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is probing several mobile app developing firms for failing to safeguard children’s privacy.

According to the regulator, the developers of mobile app for children fail to secure permission from parents to collect information including device IDs, location data and phone numbers.

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said that there has been no progress seen 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," Leibowitz said.

"All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job.

"We’ll do another survey in the future and we will expect to see improvement."

As part of the survey, FTC inspected several apps for children and glanced at disclosures and links on promotion page of each app in the app store, on the app developer’s website, and within the app.

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The survey revealed that most of the apps failed to offer any information regarding the data collected through the app.

FTC’s report also reveals that many of the apps contained interactive features including advertising, the ability to make in-app purchases, and links to social media without reveal these features to parents before downloading.

The agency found that only 20% of the apps revealed that they collected information, while 60% collected the device’s ID and delivered it to the developer, an advertising network or another third party.

The report also advises industry to implement recommendations in the recent FTC Privacy Report that include incorporation of privacy protections into the design of mobile products and services, providing parents with information on the data collection and sharing through kids’ apps as well as offer maximised transparency about the data collection process.

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