Regulators start probe into children's online privacy

Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:22pm EST
 
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By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators are investigating a number of companies in the mobile app marketplace for failing to protect children's privacy or not disclosing what information is collected from users, the Federal Trade Commission said on Monday.

The agency made the disclosure in releasing a report that found the makers of mobile apps designed for children had frequently failed to adequately inform parents about what information was collected about their children.

The information collected could include a child's location or mobile device number.

"FTC staff has initiated a number of investigations to address the gaps between company practices and disclosures," the agency said in a report. It declined to say which companies it was investigating or how many there were.

The FTC enforces the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires companies to get parental consent before collecting information about children aged 12 or younger.

To do the study, the agency chose 400 apps designed for children, 200 from Google Play and another 200 from Apple's App Store. It looked at disclosures and user information that was collected and transmitted.

The agency found that 20 percent of the apps disclosed that they collected information, while 60 percent collected the device's unique ID and sent it back to the developer, an advertising network or another third party.

Fourteen of those apps also sent back the user's location and/or their phone number, the report said.   Continued...