Neither Apple's App Store nor Google's Android Market provide enough information what data their nearly 1 billion mobile applications collect from children who use their software, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC's survey of mobile apps for children shows that app stores and app developers don't provide the information parents need to determine what data apps are slurping from their kids, how the data is being used and by whom. This is not sitting well with the agency, which cites protecting children's privacy as one of its biggest goals.
This question of what data apps access and how they use it became an issue for adult users this past week. Social network service Path admitted it stored iPhone users' phone address book data on its servers without obtaining permission from users. Foursquare and Foodspotting and other iPhone apps makers did something similar. After Congressmen complained,
Apple vowed that any app seeking to access contact data will require explicit user approval in the future.
The FTC meanwhile studied the disclosures apps targeted to children provide about data those programs collect.
Such data includes users' geolocation, phone numbers, contact lists and other data stored on the device, as well as ratings and parental controls for several apps in the App Store, which has more than 500,000 apps, and the Android Market, which has roughly 380,000 programs.
"While there was a diverse pool of kids apps created by hundreds of different developers, there was almost no information about the data collection and sharing on the Apple App store promotion pages and little information beyond general permission statements on the Android Market promotion pages," the FTC wrote.
"In most instances, staff was unable to determine from the information on the app store page or the developer's landing page whether an app collected any data, let alone the type of data collected, the purpose for such collection, and who . . . obtained access to such data."