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Government Questions Whether Mobile App Companies Violate Child Privacy

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The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether mobile apps marketed to children may violate kids' rights to privacy, and may be misleading parents with confusing and inaccurate privacy policies. The FTC has already identified a number of companies that are engaging in the dubious practices, tracking children's mobile behaviors without the consent of parents. The FTC is also poised to vote on a new set of rules that would limit such companies' ability to track pre-teens on their mobile devices. The Washington Post has more:

"The agency and the Obama administration have pushed for stronger protections for children who are spending more time than ever online, thanks largely to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets in homes and schools.

While current law puts strict limits on advertising to children in print or on television, it provides fuzzier guidance on mobile technology, which can be far more invasive. Tech companies, for instance, can instantaneously locate a user, track a person's social-media habits or keep a record of every Web site visited.

Those kinds of data, however sensitive to parents,have allowed companies to target ads and develop programs for children with a kind of precision that wasn't available just a few years ago. The push by the government to update child privacy rules has faced resistance from Silicon Valley giants, including Facebook, Apple and Google, as well as the companies developing mobile apps. While they agree that children should be afforded special protections, they also argue some of the proposals would stifle a nascent and innovative industry.

Still, the FTC said it would launch "multiple" investigations into mobile apps companies that may have violated laws on deceptive practices or the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law that public interest groups say badly needs an update. The agency declined to identify the names or the number of companies that it would target in its probes."

Image: Young girl texting, via Shutterstock

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