When Andrew Hemp bought his 10- and 12-year-old daughters iPhones for emergencies two years ago, he didn’t expect a $200 phone bill. “It was quite a shock,” says Hemp, a senior executive at a shipping company from El Sobrante, Calif. “She ended up purchasing a large number of apps,” he says of the younger daughter. “She’d download one, use it once or twice, then get another one.”
After he explained the situation to Apple, the company reversed the charges. He says there should be better warnings to children who download apps—something like, “This is going to cost your parents $5. Do you want to proceed?”
Privacy and safety concerns
According to projections from our national survey, roughly 5 million preteens own smart phones. The Federal Trade Commission has been questioning app developers’ data-sharing practices concerning children.
The agency has adopted new amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Changes include adding location information, photographs, and videos to the list of data that require parental notice and consent before they can be collected; extending the rule to cover mobile-device IDs, an identifier that could make the user more recognizable; and closing a loophole that let third parties collect data from children without their parents’ knowledge. The Do Not Track Kids Act, a bipartisan bill, is expected soon and would prohibit companies from collecting personal and location information from anyone under 13 without parental consent, as well as other protections.
The FTC also recently settled a suit against a social network, Path, which included charges that it let children create journals that could include photos and their location and collected personal information.
The FTC’s actions followed its study last year of 400 apps for children, which found possible COPPA violations. As a result, the agency said it was launching multiple investigations. The study found that parents weren’t always shown privacy notices or information about interactive features that might allow a child to participate in social media, view ads they lack the maturity to assess, or make in-app purchases.