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FTC slams children's app developers on privacy

11 Dec 2012

Mobile app developers are endangering the privacy of children with reckless personal data practices, according to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

A new report from the FTC slammed developers for continuing to collect more information than needed when operating, and assuming higher access privileges without first asking for parental approval.

The survey is the second in an annual series of reports assessing the state of consumer privacy in the children's mobile software space. The commission found that developers have made "little progress" since 2011.

"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," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz.

"In fact, our study shows that kids' apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents. All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job."

The FTC report noted a number of invasive behaviours, including connecting to social networking and advertising platforms to upload data without notification. The commission found that 80 percent of the applications it tested were not properly reporting access permissions to users, while some 60 percent improperly transmitted information.

The FTC also left the door open for further action, saying it would be further investigating whether developers and service providers have violated US child protection laws.

To improve the security and privacy of children, the commission is advising users to incorporate security best practices into the development process and better explaining access permissions and practices to users.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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