Children's apps collecting data without parent consent - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Children's apps collecting data without parent consent

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Amarillo, Texas - Many parents are unaware the apps their children are playing are collecting data.

The Federal Trade Commission reviewed 400 of the most popular educational and gaming apps for children. Surprisingly, only 20% of them disclose their data collection practices.

Apps often transmit phone numbers, GPS locations or an ID serial code to developers, advertising networks or other companies. Regulators have said this information could be used to find or contact children, or track their activities without parents' knowledge or consent.

"The reason a company would want to track your child's information is they want to track it to provide that free app. They're giving you the free app so they can learn about your child unbeknownst to you, and they can turn around and sell that," Josh Knapp, an Amarillo web developer says.

Regulators are investigating whether this data collection violates the Child Online Privacy Protection Act. But this information isn't being used to harm children.

"I don't think it is so much of an issue of a creepy guy out there tracking your child's internet use as it is an invasion of privacy in that it's a company. A large company typically that would be buying that information, and then they're going to turn around and market directly to your child," Knapp says.

It is more often than not free apps that are the culprits and swamp their apps with advertisements. Local mother, Shari Barton, says she's seen this with her son.

"We've been playing apps together, and there's been some inappropriate stuff and I was like wow now I have to explain to my child what something was he was not prepared, and frankly I was not prepared to explain it to him at this age," Barton says.

Knapp says the best ways to protect against this are to check the settings on your devices and to even play the game yourself before allowing your child.