In all likelihood, mobile app developers probably don’t discriminate when it comes to sponging information from kids and adults alike. To most of them, private info is a bunch of little white pellets and they are insatiable Pac-Mans. However, the lack of information regarding how developers might be collecting info specifically on children has the Federal Trade Commission shock-and-awed so now the government agency is calling upon developers to foster a better “kids app ecosystem” in order to keep parents better informed.
In a report released today that studied how mobile apps designed for children are collecting information on users, the FTC found a dearth of information that prevents parents from understanding the terms under which their children’s information will be used. The report focused on the two largest app stores, Apple’s iTunes App Store and Android Market, and assessed the clarity and accessibility of information about apps marketed toward kids. The iTunes App Store provided “almost no information” about the data collection practices of apps and Android Market didn’t fare much better as it offered “little information beyond general permission statements” regarding the apps.
That’s just appalling, isn’t it? Mobile apps that are quietly raking information from users? Wait for it. Wait.
“At the FTC, one of our highest priorities is protecting children’s privacy, and parents deserve the tools to help them do that,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a statement. Leibowitz added that industry of apps for kids “needs to wake up” so as to help keep parents informed about the apps children are using by providing helpful, clearer information about what data the apps are actually collecting from kids.
Given what the report says about apps for kids, the FTC is adding their voice to the chorus of entities calling upon app developers to provide more – and clearer! – information about their info-mining policies. They’re also recommending that the app stores themselves take more responsibility by enabling parents with pertinent information about the apps their kids will be using.
While such revelations about the shady info-collecting habits of mobile apps are about as surprising as the fact that water is wet, people love rallying around the mission to protect the innocence of children as long as they can so this will likely add another log on the growing fire against mobile apps’ practice of storing and using users’ information. This FTC report will no doubt stir the flames even higher.