Get ’em hooked on ads early!

Disclosures are severely lacking when it comes to children’s apps on Apple’s and Google’s app stores, according to a new report (PDF) from the Federal Trade Commission. Published Monday, the FTC details its findings from 400 apps across both stores that are geared toward children, highlighting that numerous apps still collect personal data to be transmitted to marketers without parents’ knowledge. In addition, the FTC said many app makers claim not to advertise to kids within their apps while simultaneously doing exactly that—another practice that concerns the FTC.

The FTC examined both the privacy policies and actual practices within each of the 400 apps selected for review, finding that only 16 percent provided a privacy policy to parents before downloading and 20 percent after downloading. Even then, the Commission found the disclosures that were provided were often full of dense, too-technical information that “would be difficult for more parents to read and understand.” The report also says many policies lacked basic details like what kind of personal information would be collected, the purpose of the collection, and who would gain access to the data.

The reason for concern is valid. Some of the apps examined by the FTC transmitted not only device IDs, but also the device’s phone number, geolocation, birth dates, e-mail addresses, home mailing addresses, and other information to third parties. A full 59 percent of apps tested reported some kind of personal information (usually a device ID, with a lower prevalence of sharing other info) to a third party or the app’s developer, while a number of those apps actually stated in their privacy policies that they do not share that information with third parties.

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via Ars Technica » Technology Lab