On Monday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission published a report stating that app stores, such as those operated by Apple and Google, must begin to take greater responsibility in regards to protecting privacy in kids apps. The report concludes that there is not enough information available to parents concerning the collection of information and data via apps for children.
To take a closer look at the FTC report in its entirety, visit this PDF link. Although the report is 42 pages long, the introduction sets things up nicely:
“In February 2012, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) staff issued a report on a survey of mobile “apps” offered for children in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market, the two largest U.S. app stores. The report, Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures are Disappointing, found that little or no information was available to parents about the privacy practices and interactive features of the mobile apps surveyed prior to download. As a result, the report called on all members of the kids’ app ecosystem – app stores, developers, and third parties that interact with the apps – to provide greater transparency about the data practices and interactive features of apps geared to children. The report stated that FTC staff would conduct a follow-up survey in six months to evaluate whether and how industry had addressed the concerns raised.
FTC staff conducted its follow-up survey during the summer of 2012. Like the first survey, the new survey examined the disclosures that apps provided about their privacy practices and interactive features, such as links to social media. However, the new survey went a step further by testing the apps’ practices and comparing them to the disclosures made. Specifically, the new survey examined whether the apps included interactive features or shared kids’ information with third parties without disclosing these facts to parents. The answer: Yes, many apps included interactive features or shared kids’ information with third parties without disclosing these practices to parents.”
In short, it appears that the FTC strongly believes that companies like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) have the ability to take additional measures to ensure parents have the appropriate information when downloading an app for their child. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz sums up the report with the following:
“We haven’t seen any progress when it comes to making sure parents have the information they need to make informed choices about apps for their kids. All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job.”
Despite the fact that the first report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was an eye opener, the results of the follow-up were not much better. In fact, it appears that little progress has been made, and that “undisclosed sharing is occurring on a frequent basis.” Let us know our thoughts on the report, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) in the comments section below.