FTC voices concerns over mobile apps for kids

The FTC has issued a report about apps targeted towards kids in the Google Play and Apple App stores -- and there's plenty of room for concern.

The Federal Trade Commission has published a new report after conducting a review of mobile applications being targeted towards children and sold within the in the Google Play and Apple App stores.

The short story of the report is that the FTC is still concerned over a number of issues -- namely that parents still don't have a clear picture of what kind of data is being collected about their children.

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz explained in the report that the study revealed that "kids' apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents."

According to the report, only 20 percent of the apps reviewed by FTC staff disclosed any information about the app’s privacy practices. Furthermore, nearly 60 percent of the apps surveyed were found to be transmitting data from a user's mobile device back to the app developer, an advertising network, analytics company, or another third party.

Here's an excerpt from the FTC study that conveys their concerns in a nutshell:

Most apps failed to provide any information about the data collected through the app, let alone the type of data collected, the purpose of the collection, and who would obtain access to the data. Even more troubling, the results showed that many of the apps shared certain information with third parties – such as device ID, geolocation, or phone number – without disclosing that fact to parents. Further, a number of apps contained interactive features – such as advertising, the ability to make in-app purchases, and links to social media – without disclosing these features to parents prior to download.

Although Leibowitz acknowledged that "most companies have the best intentions when it comes protecting kids’ privacy," he added that the FTC hasn't seen much progress or improvement when it comes to giving parents the information they need to make informed choices about apps for kids.

The FTC Privacy Report outlined a few recommendations for mobile app developers -- specifically offering parents easy-to-understand choices about the data collection and sharing.

The FTC is also taking a more proactive approach on its own by developing new consumer education directed towards parents in regards to the mobile app marketplace and apps that fail to provide adequate privacy and data collecting disclosures.