FTC: Apple and Google not doing enough to protect privacy in kids apps

in General Discussion edited January 2014
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission published a report on Monday saying that app stores like those operated by Apple and Google need to take responsibility for enhanced transparency, as there is little to no information available to parents regarding the collection and transmission of data from apps targeted at children.

FTC Study
Source: FTC

Monday's FTC staff report (PDF link) is a follow-up to the February study Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures are Disappointing, which raised concerns over a gross lack of information offered by developers pertaining to privacy and the interactive features of mobile apps for kids.

According to the study, kids' apps included interactive features or shared gathered information with third parties, but failed to disclose the practices to parents in the app descriptions seen on Apple's App Store or Google's Android Market.

As noted by The Wall Street Journal, almost 60 percent of 400 randomly selected apps transmitted sensitive device information to developers or third parties like advertising networks and analytics firms. Only 20 percent of the apps studied disclosed information about possible data collection practices, 11 percent of which actually transmitted information while 9 percent did not. Data sent from the various mobile devices included geolocation information, phone numbers and device IDs.

Study Data
Source: FTC

The percentage of apps that didn't disclose certain interactive features, such as ads or links to social networking services, were nearly identical with 58 percent containing in-app advertising, while 22 percent had embedded links to social network sites. Only 15 percent of the apps disclosed the presence of ads and 9 percent indicated outgoing links.

From the report:
The results of the survey are disappointing. Industry appears to have made little or noprogress in improving its disclosures since the first kids? app survey was conducted, and the new survey confirms that undisclosed sharing is occurring on a frequent basis.
Although it is the responsibility of app makers to describe and issue warnings for their respective wares, Apple and Google are seen as "gatekeepers" because they curate and run the two largest app stores in the U.S. This is especially true for Apple's App Store as the company keeps a close eye on what is allowed into its so-called "walled garden."

The FTC believes both companies can do more to ensure parents have sufficient information when downloading software for their children.

?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,? said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. ?All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job.?


  • Reply 1 of 9
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 6,110member
    And the government is??!!
  • Reply 2 of 9

    About time..So many apps on the google play store request to have access to your contacts, network etc etc and is unnecessary..A perfct example Why would a flashlight app need to know what contacts you have or need to make calls from your phone.

  • Reply 3 of 9
    Given that there are thousands of Apps in Apple's store and we haven't received any details about which apps were guilty of what 'offense' this retelling of the report is rather hyperbolic. Especially since it looks like it was done pre iOS 6 which included a number of privacy related controls and new rules.
  • Reply 4 of 9
    This report would be a lot more useful if it actually told us which apps did not make the grade. That way we can avoid them. Perhaps none use of the apps would encourage developers to become more transparant. Ha! Likely not....
  • Reply 5 of 9

    Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

    And the government is??!!


    Eh, I don't think they should. But they also shouldn't be whining about it like this, either.

  • Reply 6 of 9
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,389member

    a bit more info via the WSJ:



    "The FTC credited Google and Apple for requiring app developers to get users' permission before collecting sensitive data such as location information and contact lists and for taking steps to make such disclosures easier.

    The question now is what sorts of data collection should be disclosed, and how prominently it should be displayed to make sure parents know before downloading an app. For example, while apps often warn users that they are collecting location data, they don't often inform users prominently whether or not they are tracking usage patterns and sharing the information with advertising networks.

    Apple held five meetings with FTC officials in September and November to try to keep changes to the children's privacy rules from ensnaring the App Store, government records show.

    On Nov. 7, for example, Apple's vice president for world-wide government affairs, Catherine Novelli, and the company's director of privacy, Jane Horvath, urged FTC officials to explicitly exempt app-store operators from Coppa requirements, according to notes of the meeting published by the commission. Ms. Novelli told officials that Apple introduced new parental controls this year, while Ms. Horvath demonstrated them on an iPad, according to the notes.

    In the meetings and in a six-page filing with the FTC, Apple said it can't control the kinds of data that apps collect imageand argued that forcing it to ensure their compliance with Coppa would be akin to holding department stores liable for the data collection practices of children's clothing makers. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on Monday's report.

    Google, in a filing, said the Coppa rule change "would create unique compliance challenges for Google Play." the app store for its popular Android operating software for phones and tablets. It said Monday that it was reviewing the FTC's report. Amazon, whose Kindle Fire tablet includes an app store with many popular kids' games, didn't file comments on Coppa and declined to comment.

  • Reply 7 of 9

    The numbers are particularly scary. I think most developers assume that the identification of devices, recording of usage patterns are all "goes-without-saying" stuff. While in some cases, parents do take the privacy seriously, there is also an apparent lack of awareness amongst them regarding the nuances of technological application, data collection etc. Most notably the lines are blurred here.

  • Reply 8 of 9

    Here, let me fix that title for you:


    FTC: Apple and Google not doing enough to protect privacy in kids ALL apps.


    It's not just a few rogue apps.  It appears MANY apps have at least some kind of "spyware" built in.  People need to start getting a clue about this and start rejecting all apps that phone home and/or dig through your data on your most personal device.


    Update:  this isn't new, 30 second search and here are a couple links:




    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1066566 (and it's only gotten worse)


    The problem that some of these idiots (http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/17/quasimodo-the-misunderstood-address-transmitter/) are missing is that even if you're naive enough to willingly transmit your entire address book to some no-name (or even big-name) social wannabe company, it's not your data you're sending out willy-nilly, it's your friends' personal data.  Guess what?  I don't want you to send my personal data out to ANY company, knock it off!!  There, I feel a little better.

  • Reply 9 of 9
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 1,077member

    bullshit! parents need to start parenting. period.

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