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'Kids' apps STILL siphoning too much info from mobes' - FTC boss

Apple and Google under fire for poor standards

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Mobile apps are still collecting children's personal details from their phones without their consent, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned today in a report on privacy intrusions.

The watchdog analysed 400 popular children's apps available for Google Android and Apple iOS devices, and found that the applications continue to take sensitive information from users without disclosing what data is taken nor where it goes.

That included passing on information such as the physical location of the user and even phone numbers to third parties.

"Our study shows that kids' apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said while discussing the report Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade.

Only 20 per cent of the apps probed showed a privacy policy. Nearly 60 per cent transmitted information from a user's device back to the app developer or, more commonly, to an advertising network, analytics company or other third party, said the FTC.

It is feared these ad networks could pool data collected from all sorts of applications to build up a complete profile on each user - crucially without the punters' knowledge or consent.

The report is a follow-up to a survey completed by the FTC in February this year, and the lack of progress highlights corporate sluggishness on the topic of app privacy.

It wasn't just the developers getting stick: app store gatekeepers - Apple and Google - were criticised for not adequately policing apps available from the online shops. Leibowitz said:

All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job. We'll do another survey in the future and we will expect to see improvement.

This FTC report follows the first lawsuit by a US state against an app for allegedly breaching privacy laws. California's attorney general has accused Delta Airlines of failing to prominently display a privacy policy for the information it takes. ®

Top three mobile application threats

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