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Do You Know Where Your Kids’ Data Is?

Written by Equifax Reporter on April 20, 2016 in Credit  |   No comments

It’s not unusual for today’s toddlers to be able to easily navigate an electronic device. It’s an intuitive part of their daily lives, despite some parents’ quest to shield them from it. Most children born after 2002 use technology on a daily basis, and it’s…

ChildOnComputerIt’s not unusual for today’s toddlers to be able to easily navigate an electronic device. It’s an intuitive part of their daily lives, despite some parents’ quest to shield them from it.

Most children born after 2002 use technology on a daily basis, and it’s important for parents to know how to protect their children online—specifically when using apps.

The FTC has published studies on privacy disclosures on children’s apps annually since 2012. The inaugural reports, “Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures are Disappointing” and “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade,” uncovered that a staggering amount of apps share user information with third parties, unbeknownst to the children who are using those apps.

The key to keeping hold on what apps are putting your child’s security at risk is to investigate their privacy practices. Easy enough, right?

Well, not exactly.

In the most recent survey, 45 percent of the 364 apps tested turned out to have privacy practices available only after downloading. An additional 38 had privacy practices available in harder-to-find places, the FTC reports, such as through a link to a developer’s website.

The kind of privacy data in question includes children’s geolocation data, photos, videos, and audio recordings, as well as persistent identifiers such as cookies that can track a child’s activity online.

Seek out age-appropriate apps for children

Chris O’Shea, founder of Cowly Owl, a London-based children’s app company, says that his biggest advice to parents is to stick to apps that are made for their child’s appropriate age group.

“On the Apple App Store, there is a ‘Kids’ category, and on Google Play, there is a ‘For Families’ category,” he says. “To have an app in those categories, developers must provide a privacy policy that can be visible from the store before you download an app. The platform holders then approve [the] app to be in those categories—but [parents should] still check the privacy policies.”

Parents should also beware of free apps, especially those riddled with pop-up and other forms of advertising that can take children out of the app and onto a third-party site, putting them at risk.

“Not only could the advertising not be age appropriate, but the advertising networks that they use can often track your device across apps to build up a behavior pattern of what your interests are,” O’Shea says.

COPPA can help protect children’s information

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was established in January 2014 by the FTC to place parents in control over what information is collected from children online.

The COPPA Rule was designed to protect children under age 13, and it applies to operators of commercial websites and online services, including mobile apps. The rule includes requirements to post a clear and comprehensive privacy policy, to directly notify parents before personal data is requested, and to provide parents with the choice of whether to consent to an operator’s use and collection of data.

“The rule also applies to websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information directly from users of another website or online service directed to children,” the FTC states in its COPPA FAQs.

O’Shea says that when going over a privacy policy, parents should understand that there is a difference between analytics and personal data.

“Don’t be afraid if you see that an app uses analytics,” he says. “If it is anonymous data, the developers use this information to help improve their apps, [such as] fixing usability or gameplay [or] knowing what is and isn’t working. [Be sure that] the privacy policy states that this is not personal information and you aren’t being asked for your personal details.”

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How You Can Help Protect Against Identity Theft
What You Can Teach Your Children Right Now About Credit

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.

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