A new report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that many of the apps which are designed for children collect data about the devices the kids are using without informing parents. The apps, which are available for Android via Google’s Play Store and for iOS via Apple’s iTunes store, send information from the mobile device to ad networks, analytics companies, or other third parties.

The FTC issued a similar report in 2011 and it seems that little has been done in the last twelve months to improve the information given to parents about what data is being collected , how it is being shared, or who will have access to it.

To compile the report the FTC studied hundreds of apps for children and looked for any disclosure information on the app’s page in the app store or on the app developer’s website. The research concluded that most apps (nearly 60 percent of the apps surveyed) failed completely to warn parents about any data collected. The FTC also highlighted the troubling practice of sharing collected information with third parties. Information such as the device ID, the geolocation, or  the phone number are regularly shared with third parties.

There is also concern about apps which contain the ability to make in-app purchases or include links to social media sites. Again these “features” aren’t disclosed to parents prior to download. Just under one fifth of the apps studied allowed children to make purchases with prices ranging from 99 cents to $29.99.

What do you think? Are you worried about how your children are being monitored or manipulated when they use a smartphone or tablet?

Gary Sims
Gary has been a tech writer for over a decade and specializes in open source systems. He has a Bachelor's degree in Business Information Systems. He has many years of experience in system design and development as well as system administration, system security and networking protocols. He also knows several programming languages, as he was previously a software engineer for 10 years.