FTC Survey Probes Kids' Apps, Safety
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking to protect the privacy of kids and teens, a tech-savvy, although vulnerable demographic that increasingly uses mobile apps on a daily basis. The commission today released the findings of a survey of the apps offered in the Android Market and the Apple App store.
The survey focused in particular on the types of apps offered to children; the age range of the intended audience; the disclosures provided to users about the apps' data collection and sharing practices; the availability of interactive features, such as connecting with social media; and the app store ratings and parental controls offered for these systems.
The culminating 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.
The FTC is asking those involved in the kids app ecosystem — the app stores, developers, and third parties providing services within the apps — to play a more active role in providing key information to parents who download apps.
The report covers all aspects of how apps for kids behave on both the Android Market and Apple App Store, including features such integration with social networks, in-app purchase mechanisms, parental controls and data collection, among others.
The report also found the rating systems at both app stores to be flawed and those ratings assigned to apps largely in the developer's control. In the Apple App Store, 97 percent of apps are rated for users 4 and older. In the Android Market, 83 percent of apps were rated for "Everyone."
The report concludes that "parents generally cannot determine, before downloading an app, whether the app poses risks related to the collection, use, and sharing of their children's personal information." The FTC believes parents should be able to learn, before downloading an app for their children, what data will be collected, how the data will be used and who will obtain access to the data.
The report, which can be found in its entirety here, comes amid yet another governmental probe of privacy practices and policies, this time with respect to how Apple allows developers access to a user's contacts.
The probe comes after Scott Morin, CEO of Path, a mobile social network, apologized to users for having collected their contact information without first gaining consent.