Three years after conducting a survey on apps directed to children, the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Technology Research and Investigation decided to check back with app developers for progress on the privacy front.
The agency took a look at what information is collected by the apps, with whom it is being shared, and what the developers are telling parents who download the apps to learn more about the data collection and sharing practices.
These numbers were an improvement over the 2012 findings in a pair of surveys conducted by the agency with GPEN: Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures Are Disappointing and Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade. At that time, many child-directed apps shared data with third parties without telling parents and parents had “little or no access” to information about the privacy practices of the apps.
Although pleased with the progress by apps in disclosing privacy information, the FTC noted that 38 of the apps reviewed still had their privacy policies in a “harder-to-find” place, such as on the app developer’s page or within the app, which demonstrated the continued need for improvement.
To read the FTC’s blog post about the survey’s findings, click here.
Why it matters: Possible reasons for the increase in sharing information about privacy policies? The FTC suggested updates to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act that took effect in 2013, or the agreement reached between California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris and the major mobile platform providers in which they acknowledged that they are subject to the state’s Online Privacy Protection Act and are required to conspicuously post their privacy policies. “Whatever the reasons for the increase in direct links to kids’ app privacy policies, it’s a step in the right direction,” the FTC wrote in a blog post about the findings. “That said, a significant portion of kids’ apps still leave parents in the dark about the data collected about their children—so there’s more work to be done. Furthermore, for improved disclosures to have any value, they must accurately reflect what the app is up to. We’ll dive deeper into that issue in upcoming blog posts.”