Mobile apps still targeting kids, collecting information - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Mobile apps still targeting kids, collecting information

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) -

Parents need to be on alert before they let their kids download apps on that new phone this holiday season.

Even though federal law passed back in 2013 aimed to protect kids, some app developers are still collecting lots of data.

New studies from privacy researchers and consumer advocates say those apps are getting information like a kids location and even recordings of their voice.

Concerned in particular about industries' focus on kids online, the Federal Trade Commission in July 2013 expanded the Child Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, to require app developers to get parental consent before collecting personal data on anyone younger than 13. That includes information like the unique identifying device on a phone, a person's phone number or a device's location.

According to PrivacyGrade.org, which is run by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, scores of apps that collect information are still aimed at kids.

For example, Fruit Ninja collects a phone's location, which could be passed on to advertisers. And Talking Tom, where kids can talk to and "tickle" an alley cat using the touch screen, collects a child's audio recordings along with other information that can uniquely identify a phone.

A marketing professor at Southeast Missouri State says it comes down to money.

"To get to then while they're very very young is an important goal you know to build that awareness and to get kids identifying with Nike, and Gatorade and Coke-a-Cola at a very very early age," John Cherry said.

However, parents say even if the goal is to make money, they don't want the privacy of their children sacrificed.

"Very concerned about people knowing the whereabouts of my children," Amanda Jenkerson said. "I kind of feel like I should be one of the only people that know that."

"That is very worrisome because I try to protect her from everything out there and I certainly don't want her unaware of what she's bringing in and that they could be hunting her down," Renee Jackson said.

Parents like Jenkerson said they limit what their kids can do on digital devices to keep them safe.

"A couple of YouTube videos a day, maybe a sesame street clip or a song that they really like, something like that because it's through my phone so I know it's my information rather than them having their information out there," Jenkerson said.

Experts say the key for parents is to read the privacy policy of each downloaded app to make sure what and how they are using personal information.

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