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FTC Investigates Cellphone Apps in Violation of Privacy Act
Nowadays parents aren’t the only ones monitoring their children’s whereabouts. Several cellphone applications are collecting data about them while they’re online. Many software companies, who develop the apps, gather personal information from a child’s cellphone without parental consent and sell it to third party advertisers and data brokers. While the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in August stating a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1988, the government began their investigation of several companies on this basis.
From a child’s physical location to other such personal information including their friends’ names and numbers, these are just some of what these apps are collecting from children. But according to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection, Section 1302 states that “any person who operates a website located on the Internet or an online service and who collects or maintains personal information from or about the users of or visitors to such website or online service, or on whose behalf such information is collected or maintained, where such website or online service is operated for commercial purposes, including any person offering products or services for sale through that website or online service, involving commerce” from a person under the age of 13 is in violation of the law.
The FTC recently reported that of the 400 children apps, which the commission will not name, the privacy agreement failed to inform parents of the information that it was intending to collect and who they would share such information with. It went on to say that some of the apps included “questionable” advertisement and even links to social media platforms encouraging children to post their personal information. This data is then easily sifted through to third parties, who then create a child profile without parental permission.
The Huffington Post recently reported, “the FTC described the marketplace for mobile applications—dominated by online stores operated by Apple and Google—as a digital danger zone with inadequate oversight.” And because of this, the investigation is determining whether software companies participated in any unfair practices, which would be illegal.
The FTC is working on making revisions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act constructed more than a decade ago to better protect children under the age of 13. While many of the companies feel the new rules might be too strict, public activists feel this is needed to “safeguard” children.
The new FTC report will be voted on in the next few weeks, which will bring about big changes to the Internet, prohibiting the use of behavioral marketing techniques to track children without their parent’s consent.