With the recent release of an informational graphic, an easy-to-read visual guide, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just made it much easier for busy parents who need help navigating the overwhelming array of mobile apps on the market that are aimed at children.  The graphic, which is part of the FTC’s consumer education initiative “directed to parents to help navigate the mobile app marketplace and avoid apps that fail to provide adequate disclosures about how children’s information will be used,” depicts findings from the Federal Trade Commission’s recent report, “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade”, and provides parents and other consumers with practical tips for safeguarding children’s privacy.  As we previously blogged, the FTC report, which was the second of its kind, found that there were serious concerns with the privacy disclosures and practices of apps geared toward children, and that there had been little progress with respect to these issues since the first report was issued in February 2012.  The informational graphic highlights what the FTC sees as the disconnect between the practices of mobile apps and the disclosures related to those practices. 

The FTC warns parents of “4 things your kid’s apps might do--but might not tell you”:

  • Mobile apps may collect and share personal information.  The FTC’s second survey on mobile apps marketed to children found that while 59% of the apps surveyed collected and shared personal information, only 11% disclosed that fact.
  • Even free apps may permit children to make in-app purchases.  Fully 84% of children’s apps that enable purchases within the app are free for the initial download.
  • While 54% of the apps surveyed contained advertisements within the app, only 9% disclosed the presence of ads.
  • Similarly, 22% of apps link to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but only 9% of the apps surveyed disclosed this practice.

The FTC advises parents to review carefully the content of the app, change phone or tablet settings to prevent children from downloading inappropriate content or making inadvertent purchases, and spend time using the app with children.

While the graphic does not provide any truly new information, its release is noteworthy because it is one in a number of FTC efforts over the past couple years regarding mobile app privacy and marketing concerns (see our previous posts here, here, here, here, and here).  With so much focus on the mobile apps marketplace, it is an ideal time to remind app developers and would-be-developers that, as the FTC warned in its December 2012 Report, the agency is launching non-public investigations to determine if there have been any violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or Section 5 of the FTC Act in the marketplace, and that companies that have failed to implement the recommendations from the FTC’s February 2012 Report may find themselves facing potential deceptive practices claims.  So, while the target audience of the new information graphic is consumers, as the FTC recommends “savvy app developers will want to take a look, too.”