FTC Report Urges Mobile Application Developers To Improve Disclosures, Announces Multiple COPPA Investigations

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On December 10, the FTC issued a staff report on the privacy disclosures and practices of mobile applications offered for children in certain online application stores. The report provides the results of an FTC survey of the disclosures and links on the promotion page in the application store, on the application developer’s website, and within the application, for hundreds of applications for children. According to the report, most mobile applications failed to give parents any information needed to determine what data is being collected from their children, how it is being shared, and with whom it is being shared. Further, the FTC states that many applications shared certain information with third parties without disclosing that fact to parents, and a number of applications contained interactive features – such as advertising, the ability to make in-application purchases, and links to social media – without disclosing these features to parents prior to download. The report also states that FTC staff is launching multiple nonpublic investigations of certain entities that may have violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) or engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices in violation of the FTC Act, and the FTC “strongly urges” the mobile application industry to develop and implement best practices to protect privacy, including those recommended in an FTC privacy report issued earlier this year. In a related development, on December 11, the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint with the FTC seeking an investigation of one firm for allegedly offering and operating a mobile application in violation of COPPA.


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