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FTC: Kids Need to Have More Protection when Using Apps

February 17, 2012

Today, the FTC has required both Apple and Android to do more in protecting the apps their young consumers buy for their mobile devices. FTC has examined a number of mobile apps intended for children and sold through both the Apple App Store and the Android Marketplace. Out of this number, FTC examined 8,000 iOS apps and 3,800 Android apps. The researchers put in charge of this were able to discover that in almost all of these apps, there was no way for parents to tell the type of information being collected by the app maker; as well as how the information obtained gets stored or shared.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement:

“The kids’ app ecosystem needs to wake up, and we want to work collaboratively with industry to help ensure parents have the information they need.”

According to the FTC, companies which make and sell apps have a responsibility for this lack of transparency. While app makers need to disclose what sort of information they collect from their users, the App Store and Android Marketplace should also provide a way for this information to be displayed by developers.

The FTC’s statements have gotten the support of several online privacy advocate groups.

“The new FTC report clearly demonstrates that while the mobile app marketplace keeps growing, mobile privacy keeps shrinking,” says James Steyer of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit advocacy group.
“Consumers, especially children, should not have to contend with mobile phone spies,” said Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. The organization serves as a consumer protection and privacy agency, which called for Congress to pass a privacy bill of rights in protecting each consumer online.

Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry, along with Arizona Republican John McCain, have both introduced ‘The Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights.’ This proposed legislation seeks to protect the online privacy of consumers. Representative Edward J. Markey and Texas Republican Joe Barton have also introduced the ‘Do Not Track Kids Act’ legislation, which aims to protect the online privacy of both children and teens. These two bills are supportive of this recent FTC report.

As for the targeted parties of this report Apple and Android, mixed reactions have been issued. Google (creator of Android OS) has responded to this report by affirming that the company has an ‘industry-leading permission system.’ They also said:

Additionally, we offer parental controls and best practices for developers to follow when designing apps that handle user data.”

Apple, on the other hand, has declined to comment.