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Smartphone Apps for Kids Under Scrutiny Amid FTC Privacy Concerns

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(Children play video games on smartphones.   File photo by Sean Gallup/ Getty Images)

(Children play video games on smartphones. File photo by Sean Gallup/ Getty Images)

Michelle Durham Michelle Durham
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By Michelle Durham

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) — The Obama administration has ordered the Federal Trade Commission to investigate software companies who make smartphone applications, in an effort to determine whether the privacy rights of children are being violated.

In its random examination of 400 smartphone apps designed for children, the FTC says most failed to inform parents about data the app gathered and who could access it.

FTC officials did not specify which companies they are investigating, but in a statement they describe the marketplace for mobile applications as a “digital danger zone.”

At the heart of the issue is whether the apps your child downloads onto a cell phone are quietly collecting information such as his or her physical location and the phone numbers of their friends, and sharing it with advertisers and data brokers.

FTC associate director Jessica Rich says while they can’t say what’s in the minds of app makers, “there needs to be code transmitted to the apps in order to have this transmission occur.  And so in general, this doesn’t happen by accident.  It means that somebody made a business decision to transmit this information.”

They are urging app makers to make changes.  The FTC is also continuing its efforts to determine whether certain mobile apps are breaking the law.

 

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