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FTC: Apps for Kids Need More Privacy Disclosures

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on December 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Federal Trade Commission already has fairly strict regulations for children on the Internet, and it looks like they may do the same with mobile apps for kids.

Back in February the FTC reported that apps made for kids weren't meeting expectations when it comes to disclosures. The agency wanted greater information for parents about data privacy prior to download and on the app itself.

It's been almost year now, but the FTC's new report isn't any more positive. A random survey of 200 apps with the keyword "kids" gave the FTC some interesting information about how developers treat these users. The results weren't good.

The number of apps available has gone up significantly since December 2011, and many of those are either targeted at kids or appeal to younger users.

Of the apps surveyed, 58 percent of them had some form of advertising inside the app, reports The New York Times. But only 15 percent advertised that fact before the app was downloaded.

The FTC isn't upset that the ads are in there. The problem is that ads indicate that the developers are selling the users' personal data. That's a bigger problem when the users are minors.

Few of the apps disclosed any information about privacy, even though nearly 60 percent shared user information with the app developer, advertisers, or other third parties, the FTC found.

The numbers show little improvement from the initial survey published earlier this year. Apps as a whole still do little to provide privacy policies to parents before download.

While the agency isn't yet proposing regulations for app developers about apps for kids, they are asking the industry to come up with some best practices, according to CNET.

The FTC gave developers a list of proposed ideas for improving privacy. That includes incorporating privacy into the design of the product, providing easy-to-understand options about privacy for parents, and being transparent about data collection.

These ideas may mean regulation is coming for app developers as the FTC tries to put more muscle behind its suggestions. If developers can't meet expectations, they should expect new legislation in the future.

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