FTC Report Raises Privacy Questions About Mobile Apps for Children

This morning, the FTC issued a report showing the results of a survey of mobile apps for children. These apps can automatically collect a broad range of information, including a user’s location, phone number, contacts, call logs, and unique identifiers. However, the report notes that neither the app stores nor app developers provide the information parents need to determine what data is collected from children or how it is shared.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz asked companies to step up to the plate and provide easily accessible, basic information, so that parents can make informed decisions about the apps their kids use.” Specifically, the report recommends that:

  • All members of the kids app ecosystem” should play an active role in providing key information to parents.
  • App developers should provide information about their privacy practices in simple and short disclosures. They also should disclose whether the app connects with social media and whether it contains ads. Third parties that collect data also should disclose their privacy practices.
  • App stores also should take responsibility for ensuring parents have basic information. The report notes that the stores provide architecture for sharing pricing and category data, and should be able to provide a way for developers to provide privacy information.

Later this year, the FTC will host a public workshop in connection with its efforts to update the Dot Com Disclosure” guide about how to provide effective online disclosures. One of the topics that will be addressed is mobile privacy disclosures, including how they can be short, effective, and accessible to consumers on small screens.” We will discuss similar topics in our 4th Annual Privacy Law Seminar this afternoon.