Santa Apps? CARU Recommends Parents Check Apps Twice Before Sharing with Children

 New York, NY – Dec. 4, 2013 – Hundreds of free smart phone and tablet apps offer children the opportunity to correspond, Facetime or otherwise interact with Santa Claus. And some of those apps may pose a privacy risk to young users, according to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit.

 “Adults need to be alert to the fact that the presence of an application in an online app store does not mean that the application has been vetted for compliance with federal privacy laws or CARU’s guidelines,” said Wayne J. Keeley, CARU’s Director. “Before allowing a child to use an app – even a charming and tempting Santa app – adults should review the app with an eye toward protecting the child’s privacy.”

  In fact, as the Federal Trade Commission reported in March 2013, 59 percent of the child-directed apps reviewed by the FTC collected or shared personal info, but only 11 percent of the apps reviewed made that collection clear to users. In addition, 58 percent included ads and 22 percent linked to social media, but only 9 percent disclosed either fact to adults.

  On CARU’s naughty list are apps that:

  • Allow children to freely share personal information, including apps that allow children to enter text into an open form without getting parental consent or post photographs. (Photos are now considere personally identifying information under the revised Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA).
  • Require the collection of geo-location information or other PII drawn directly from the device. 
  • Do not share or do not have a privacy policy. 

  Of course, the privacy concerns raised by certain child directed apps can be troubling regardless of the season.

  •  Avoid apps that do not have a privacy policy.  The privacy policy is important because it tells adults what information is collected, why the information is required, 
  • and how the information will be used. It also contains contact information, which allows adults to reach out to the developer with questions or concerns. 
  • Find another app if you cannot find assurances from the app that it will not retain or share your child’s information.
  • Avoid apps that link to websites where other content may not be suitable for children. 
  • Talk to your children about what they should not be sharing and why.

 “So after you download an app for your child and before you hand over your smart phone or tablet, be sure to check it – twice!” Mr. Keeley noted.

 For more information about the work of the Children’s Advertising Review, please visit our website at www.asrcreviews.org.

  For more information on business compliance with the Children’s  Online  Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), please visit the Federal Trade Commission website, www.ftc.gov, to read “Complying with COPPA, Frequently Asked Questions.”