Feeds

FTC tears into Apple, Google over kids' privacy - or lack of

'Impossible' to know data collected by apps, watchdog fumes

Build a business case: developing custom apps

US regulators have told smartphone software makers to do more to protect the privacy of kids using their apps - or face the watchdogs' wrath.

In a report that acknowledged the "tremendous" growth of mobile software, the Federal Trade Commission said app developers are not making "simple and short" declarations of their privacy policies. As a result, young users - picked out for their vulnerability - could be giving up their mobile phone numbers, contacts, location and other data without knowing about it.

It also warned that app stores run by Apple and Google needed to do more.

"Although the app store developer agreements require developers to disclose the information their apps collect, the app stores do not appear to enforce these requirements. This lack of enforcement provides little incentive to app developers to provide such disclosures and leaves parents without the information they need," notes the report.

"As gatekeepers of the app marketplace, the app stores should do more."

Google said it was reviewing the FTC's report. A spokesman said:

From the beginning, Android has had an industry-leading permission system, which informs consumers what data an app can access and requires user approval before installation. Additionally, we offer parental controls and best practices for developers to follow when designing apps that handle user data.

Apple had not responded to El Reg's request for a comment by the time of publication.

FTC staff searched the app stores for games and puzzles targeted at kids and found that, in most cases, they couldn't figure out from the promotion pages "whether the apps collected any data at all, let alone the type of data collected, the purpose of the collection, and who collected or obtained access to the data".

The commission said that it had already brought an "enforcement action" against one app developer under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and it was prepared to bring more if the industry didn't sit up and take notice.

"Over the next six months, staff will conduct an additional review to determine whether there are COPPA violations and whether enforcement is appropriate. Staff also will evaluate whether the industry is moving forward to address the disclosure issues raised in this report," the regulator said.

Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, added: "At the FTC, one of our highest priorities is protecting children's privacy, and parents deserve the tools to help them do that."

"Right now, it is almost impossible to figure out which apps collect data and what they do with it. The kids app ecosystem needs to wake up, and we want to work collaboratively with industry to help ensure parents have the information they need."

The report comes as mobile apps such as Path and Twitter have been caught hanging onto address book data from phones. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft refuses to nip 'Windows 9' unzip lip slip
Look at the shiny Windows 8.1, why can't you people talk about 8.1, sobs an exec somewhere
Intel's Raspberry Pi rival Galileo can now run Windows
Behold the Internet of Things. Wintel Things
Linux Foundation says many Linux admins and engineers are certifiable
Floats exam program to help IT employers lock up talent
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
Linux kernel devs made to finger their dongles before contributing code
Two-factor auth enabled for Kernel.org repositories
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?