Daily Dashboard

FTC Issues Report on Mobile Apps and Kids

CHILDREN’S PRIVACY—U.S.

December 11, 2012

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released a report stating that mobile apps for children “fall short on disclosure to parents,” finding 20 percent disclose their data collection practices, The New York Times reports. The FTC looked at 400 popular children’s apps and said the results “paint a disappointing picture of the privacy protections provided by apps for children.” The commission is investigating whether federal laws have been breached. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the study indicates that “kids’ apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents.” Reed Smith’s John Feldman told the Daily Dashboard the report assumes that transparency is “an end in and of itself,” but there’s “no evidence that this is the case…The FTC staff is more or less throwing its chosen public policy about marketing to children up against the wall of the ‘app ecosystem’ to see what sticks. It doesn’t really say who has responsibility to disclose pertinent information, but rather just essentially says, ‘You guys work it out.’” Feldman suggests the report “hints strongly” at enforcement based on COPPA and Section 5 of the FTC Act, calling it “heavy-handed policy implementation without rulemaking procedures or legislative authorization.” He recommends marketers think about “what they could do to learn about the privacy practices of themselves and their contracting partners and what they could do to communicate those practices to the end user.” (Registration may be required to access this story.)
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