Kids’ Apps That Don’t Comply with Data Collecting Regulations Make Targeted Advertising Easy

By B.N. Frank

Experts have been issuing warnings about kids’ excessive use of screens (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and social media since long before the COVID crisis.  In fact, for many years already “Silicon Valley Parents” (including Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs) have gone to great lengths to protect their own kids from exposure.

Unfortunately, this has not deterred Big Tech companies and its proponents from continuing to create and market products to children.  Parents concerned about their kids’ privacy may be alarmed to learn how much of their personal information is being collected and used.

From Threat Post:

Kids’ Apps on Google Play Rife with Privacy Violations

One in five of the most-popular apps for kids under 13 on Google Play don’t comply with COPPA regulations on how children’s information is collected and used.

About 20 percent of the Top 500 kids’ mobile apps in the Google Play store are collecting data on users in a way that likely violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). These have been downloaded by a collective 492 million users, researchers said.

That’s according to an analysis from Comparitech, which reviewed each app’s privacy policy to see whether or not it met the key areas of COPPA regulations.

COPPA, imposed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), applies to online services, apps and websites that target children under 13, and it requires child-directed websites, apps and online services to provide notice of their data-collection practices and obtain parental consent prior to collecting personal information from children under 13. That includes the use of persistent identifiers for targeted advertising.

COPPA Requirements for Kids’ Privacy

The main requirements, according to Comparitech’s analysis, are:

  • A clear and comprehensive online privacy policy which details their practices for collecting PI from children under 13;
  • Reasonable efforts to provide direct notice to parents of their practices regarding the collection, use or disclosure of PI from children;
  • Reasonable means for a parent to review the PI collected;
  • Reasonable procedures to protect the confidentiality, security and integrity of the PI collected from children;
  • Clear data-retention policy for children’s PI, keeping it for only as long as is necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected; and
  • Listing of the name, address and email address of all third parties (such as ad networks) collecting or maintaining PI from the app.

Top 500 Kids’ App Violations

The potential COPPA violations that the firm found when examining the apps varied, but the majority of them stem from apps collecting personal data without including a child-specific section in the privacy policy. This suggests “that children’s data is collected and used the same as adult data,” according to Comparitech’s Tuesday analysis. Researchers added, “A separate section on how the developers ensure children’s safety should be included. If the app didn’t collect any data whatsoever, this wouldn’t be necessary.”

Analysis from privacy policies. Source: Comparitech

Read full article

On a related note, 40+ state Attorneys General and several non-profits have asked Facebook to cancel their plans for an Instagram page for kids under 13.  An online petition has been launched against it as well.

Activist Post reports regularly about unsafe technology.  For more information visit our archives and the following websites.

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