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Privacy still a major concern for kids' mobile games, says FTC
Privacy still a major concern for kids' mobile games, says FTC
December 11, 2012 | By Mike Rose

December 11, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing

The Federal Trade Commission, an independent government agency focused on protecting consumer rights, has stated that mobile apps and games aimed at children are not doing enough to address privacy concerns.

The organization says that kids' apps are not giving enough information to parents about the data that they collect, how it is being shared, or who will have access to it.

As part of a new report [PDF], the FTC also notes that many games aimed at kids connect to social media, and share information like device IDs and geolocations with third party companies, without disclosing this information to parents.

Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, explained, "While we think most companies have the best intentions when it comes to protecting kids 'privacy, we haven't seen any progress when it comes to making sure parents have the information they need to make informed choices about apps for their kids."

"In fact, our study shows that kids' apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents," he continued. "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."

For example, of the apps and games surveyed, the organization found that only 15 percent disclosed the presence of ads prior to download.

Meanwhile, the company also reiterated that in-app purchases in kids' apps were poorly indicated, and that warnings about possible purchases that children could make "could be difficult for many parents to understand."

This follows Apple's legal trouble earlier this year, as a judge ruled to uphold a handful of claims that the company distributed free apps that trick children into money in-app purchases.

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Thom Q
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Good, about time that it's cleaned up a bit :) Saying that the game contains ads is the right thing to do..

It'd be even "right"-er to ban in-app purchases from kids games all together. How children even can purchase anything on the internet seems a bit foreign to me. What's the minimum age for a credit card in the US?

Maurício Gomes
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No, do not ban it! It would ruin my company...

I mean, we get sales because we DON'T have in-app purchases, if everyone gets forced to be the same as us, we are doomed!

Seriously, my company (that make only children mobile apps) focus on not putting ads, freemium, in-app purchases, or even outbound links in our apps, our free apps are really free, the paid ones really paid...

I don't get why someone put some features in children apps, like some famous musical keyboard app that has lots of easy to mistap ads on the screen and is popular with 2 year olds.

Diana Hsu
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The FTC is right; there are companies focused solely on how to trick and manipulate children into spending large amounts of money on in-app purchases.

However, laws will always be slow to catch up to technology, and by the time they do, companies will have already depleted current opportunities and moved on to other ones. This kind of problem can only be solved by a fast, efficient regulatory body with strong legal backing. So we'll probably be dealing with it for some time to come.