FTC Kids Mobile App Study Shows Why New Federal Safeguards Are Needed for Privacy

Consumers, especially children, should not have to contend with mobile phone spies.  Both Google and Apple, the two leading mobile app companies, must do a much better job protecting children's privacy.   They should ensure that Android and Apple developers of children's apps enact privacy controls that give parents the information and control they need.  

The FTC should also enact new mobile privacy rules to ensure parents can protect the privacy of their children.   Consumer and children's advocacy groups support the FTC's recent proposal that its enforcement of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) better address mobile services.  A coalition of groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and Consumer Federation of America, recently asked the FTC to develop rules under COPPA that protects childrens' mobile privacy.  The filing included new research which showed that the majority of leading children's sites regularly track children online, with nearly half using so-called behavioral targeting techniques.  By age 11, half of US children have cell phones.

Today's report is also a wake-up call that Congress should pass a privacy "Bill of Rights" to protect all consumers online.  It's time Congress put a stop of these "wild west" mobile data collection practices.  Consumers face new risks to their privacy as their mobile devices increasingly share their personal information with third parties. 

Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, spearheaded the passage of COPPA by Congress in 1998.  He currently leads the campaign to have the FTC issue new rules for COPPA that cover mobile privacy and behavioral targeting.  He commending the FTC for its new focus on mobile privacy, including children, and this new report.

For a copy of the coalition's Dec. 2011 FTC filing and release on COPPA changes, see this link.