How Safe Is Our Children’s Privacy with Mobile Apps?

Mobile technologies have taken over the world. Today there is an app for just about everything. From apps that help you track your health and medication dosages to banking, shopping, and even access to specialist care. There is no denying that we are a mobile-first world. And today’s mobile consumer is getting younger. Most children as young as 2 years old are already using tablet devices with videos and other programs. These younger generations are using mobile devices and apps innately. But even if the app is targeted at a younger audience, how safe is it overall for your child to be using and interacting with it? Are these apps protecting children’s privacy?

A recent complaint filed by the DOJ on behalf of the FTC alleges that one app developer, HyperBeard, Inc., illegally allowed third-party ad networks to collect personal information about children under 13 years of age who were using their apps.

The information was used to target related advertising at users but never notified parents about the data collection or obtained verifiable parental consent. Doing so was a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA Rule). The company has agreed to pay $150,000 and delete the personal information in question.

“If your app or website is directed to kids, you’ve got to make sure parents are in the loop before you collect children’s personal information,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This includes allowing someone else, such as an ad network, to collect persistent identifiers, like advertising IDs or cookies, in order to serve behavioral advertising.”

This proceeding raises an important question we should all be asking as we work hard to protect our personal information and limit the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Just as it is important to keep your child’s social security number and personal data out of the hands of scammers, you should also be vigilant with knowing which websites and apps they are accessing and also reading the fine print on those sites to see what data they are collecting and sharing from your children before you allow them to use it.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure the apps your child is using are safe.

Check for Privacy Policies 

Any website targeted at children is required to have a privacy policy available. This can usually be found in the footer area of the site and includes a clear outline of what information the site will collect, use and disclose.

Look for Approved Seals

There are the quality seals of approval you can also check for. For kids specifically, some of the organizations offering badges to show they are safe and approved include: KidSAFE, ESRB, TrustArc, and iKeepSafe.

Do Some Research on the Company

As with anything, it’s important to do your own research. Check online reviews, rip off reports, and other online scam posts about a company before you decide if the material being offered or their data collection methods are fair.

There has never been a more important time to keep personal information private than in the younger years. Many fraudsters are spending years using someone’s information and by the time they apply for a loan as a teen or young adult years of damage have already been done to their identity. Save time and frustration and get serious about privacy now!


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