Apps for Kids Leave Parents Guessing about Privacy

Media Contacts
Jon Fox

CALPIRG Education Fund

San Francisco, CA – With the increasing popularity of mobile applications (“apps”) intended for young children, parents are often left in the dark in regards to whether the app poses risks related to the collection, use, and sharing of their children’s personal information. A recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report highlighted the privacy risks mobile apps pose while criticizing the privacy policies of mobile apps aimed at children.

“Mobile apps can capture a wide range of user information – including phone numbers, friends’ contact information, social network activity, users’ age and GPS locations,” said Jon Fox, Consumer Advocate with CALPIRG Education Fund. “Most apps targeting children fail to explain exactly what information they are gathering and what they are doing with it.”

Young children and teens are increasingly taking advantage of the games and entertainment options available through over 500,000 apps at the Apple App Store, and another 380,000 available on Android Market. Yet while apps are on the rise, information about the data collection and sharing practices of apps is lacking. In most instances, the FTC was unable to determine from the app pages whether they collected any data at all, let alone the type of data collected, the purpose of the collection, and who collected or obtained access to the data.

“The ineffective disclosure on many of the mobile apps for children may be in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires services directed to children under age 13 to provide notice and obtain parental consent before collecting items of “personal information” from children,” warned Jon Fox.

“Free apps that entertain children are an obvious draw for parents,” said Jon Fox. “But if less than 1% of apps surveyed are being up front about the information they are collecting and how they are using it, parents need to be concerned.”
CALPIRG noted that smart phones hold significant personal data, including emails and financial information.

“Since many apps share user information with third parties, the mobile apps that entertain their kids may expose parents to serious risk of identity and financial theft” warned Jon Fox.

“Parents need access to simple and clear information in order to decide whether or not an app is safe and appropriate for their child. This FTC report found that neither the app developers nor app stores are providing  enough information,” said Jon Fox.

CALPIRG recommends that app developers adopt the recommendations based on the Fair Information Practice Principles— a set of generally accepted principles for safeguarding individuals’ personal information. These principles include:
•    Be completely transparent about how you are using or transmitting user data.
•    Don’t access more data than you need.
•    Give consumers control over uses of data that they might not expect.
•    Use reasonable and up-to-date security protocols to safeguard data.



The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) Education Fund is a result-oriented public interest group that protects consumers, encourages a fair sustainable economy, and fosters responsive democratic governance.

For more information contact:                    
Jon Fox, CALPIRG Consumer Advocate                                               
Office: (415) 622 0039 x309
[email protected]