Children’s apps: Privacy traps?

With the amount of smartphones, tablets, and other Wi-Fi enabled devices on the market, it’s no surprise that many kids use mobile applications – or apps – whether on their own device or their parents’. But a report released this week by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that many kids’ apps are not doing enough to inform parents about the kind of data that’s being collected when their child uses apps – and who has access to that data.

The FTC reports that many kids’ apps are sending information from the user’s device to the app developer, advertisers, and other third parties. Some kids’ apps also fail to disclose to parents that the apps their children use contain advertisements, links to social media sites, and opportunities for children to purchase items within the app. This FTC report is a follow-up to a report on kids’ mobile apps released earlier this year which raised similar concerns about kids’ privacy. This week’s report shows there has been little improvement in disclosures to parents.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was intended to help keep kids safe online, but it was enacted in 1998 – long before the development of apps and the mass popularity of smartphones. The FTC is now considering updating COPPA to incorporate new technology that poses safety and privacy risks for kids. When we asked parents about some of the proposed updates to COPPA in an NPCH Report released last month, many parents were strongly in support:

Public support for proposed updates to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

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This year, Internet safety was one of the top 10 children’s health issues ranked by adults in the U.S. With the findings of this week’s FTC report, it’s clear that more work needs to be done to keep kids safe online.