Are your kids’ apps a security risk?

When it comes to children, parents go the extra mile to ensure that their safety is the No. 1 priority. With over 140,000 kids’ identities stolen every year, parents need to be aware that some apps might be sending more information than the game score, including a child’s location or download history, while also exposing them to unwanted advertising without parental consent.

On Dec 10, the Federal Trade Commission released a new report covering privacy exposures and practices of apps offered by Google Play and Apple’s App Store. The “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade” found that there are several ways kid-centric apps can improve parent disclosures on the amount of information that is being sent from their mobile devices to ad networks, analytics companies and third party buyers.

The FTC staff found several major flaws within the privacy policies and practices of 400 major children’s applications. An alarming 60% of apps were transmitting information from the user’s mobile device to not only the app developers but to third party companies and networks. This means that information, such as device ID, location, birthdates, email addresses, phone numbers and gaming habits, are collected to create these detailed profiles of those using the app.

Not only are parents unaware of the amount of information sharing coming from these applications but also remain unaware of the advertising that is streaming to their children. The report found that 58% of apps contained advertising within the app but only 15% actually disclosed the presence of advertising in the privacy policy prior to downloading.

Over the past year, there has been little progress in protecting children from these dangers within the apps that are supposed to be appropriate for their age. According to the FTC, by incorporating privacy protections into the design of mobile products and services, parents can make better decisions on what apps they want their children using.

The New York Times stated that ”the timing of the report suggests that the agency is trying to lay the groundwork for its push for broader children’s online privacy protections. In interviews, agency officials have said the protections needed to be modernized to keep pace with developments in mobile apps, voice recognition, facial recognition and comprehensive online data collection by marketers.”

McAfee suggests four steps that parents can take to secure their child’s privacy:

  • Be aware and read the privacy policy agreements of apps
  • Avoid downloading apps that do not clearly spell out the privacy policy
  • Research apps thoroughly by reading customer reviews and conducting online searches
  • Download a mobile security product that will protect your personal information when you are not able

To read or download the full FTC report click here.

For more information on mobile security for your Android visit www.mcafee.com/us/mms.

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Story added 18. December 2012, content source with full text you can find at link above.