Are apps tracking your kids?

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Are apps tracking your kids?

By Bill Moak, Consumer Watch

When we install a new app on our smartphones or other devices, most of us will quickly give our consent to the verification screen that pops up, which asks us to verify our privacy preferences. Few of us pay attention to this small (but important) question, but the apps we download could actually be providing a lot of information about us to companies who want to track our movements and preferences, monitor our activities and even gather information about us to sell to others.

Since many devices have “geo-location” capabilities, they can detect where your smartphone (and, by extension, you) are, with an impressively small degree of error. Some devices can even track your location in stores, figure out what merchandise you might be examining and predict your purchasing habits with amazing accuracy. Of course, if you’re OK with this, it’s not a problem. But for many people, it would be disturbing if they knew how much information was being shared without their knowledge or consent.

But a recent case has illustrated that apps can be gathering much more than you think. A Singapore-based company called InMobi will pay nearly $1 million in civil penalties and implement a comprehensive privacy program to settle Federal Trade Commission charges it deceptively tracked the locations of consumers without their knowledge to serve them geo-targeted advertising.

“InMobi tracked the locations of hundreds of millions of consumers, including children, without their consent, in many cases totally ignoring consumers’ express privacy preferences,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This settlement ensures that InMobi will honor consumers’ privacy choices in the future, and will be held accountable for keeping their privacy promises.”

InMobi stands accused of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting this information from apps that were clearly directed at children, “in spite of promising that it did not do so.” The complaint noted that InMobi’s software tracked location in thousands of child-directed apps with hundreds of millions of users without following the steps required by the act to get a parent or guardian’s consent to collect and use a child’s personal information.

Under the terms of the settlement, InMobi was originally assessed a $4 million civil penalty, which is suspended to $950,000 based on the company’s financial condition. In addition, the company will be required to delete all information it collected from children and will be prohibited from further violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The company will also be prohibited from collecting consumers’ location information without their affirmative express consent for it to be collected, among other conditions, and must create an extensive privacy program, with monitoring and independent auditing every two years.

Read full article and learn more about Deceptive Advertising, Privacy Policy and the FTC here.

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Disclaimer:  This article is provided for informational purposes only. It’s not legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is created. Neither the author nor FTC Guardian, Inc. is endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission.

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