Monday, January 20th, 2014
Kids who purchased apps for their iPhones, iPods, or iPads without their parents’ permission have provoked the ire of not only their parents, but also the Federal Trade Commission, which has ordered Apple to refund at least $32.5 million to families. More from The Washington Post:
The Federal Trade Commission’s settlement with Apple is the first punishment handed to a major tech company over the handling of children’s apps. It comes amid growing concern that as children clamor to use mobile devices, companies are doing little to protect their privacy or provide parents with the tools to supervise online behavior.
Apple drew the attention of FTC investigators nearly three years ago after a storm of consumer complaints from parents who were surprised by charges on their credit cards when their children used games such as Tap Pet Hotel and Smurf’s Village. These parents complained to regulators and joined a separate class-action lawsuit against Apple that claimed the company had approved games in its iTunes store that enticed children to buy virtual coins or “smurfberries” for real money — as much as $500 per item — without making sure the games had safeguards.
The FTC said Apple unfairly deceived consumers by allowing unlimited in-app purchases for a 15-minute period without telling users of the policy. Normally, any charges on Apple’s iOS operating system require users to enter a password to prevent accidental or unauthorized purchases.
Some parents reported that their young children had racked up thousands of dollars in charges.
“This settlement is a victory for consumers harmed by Apple’s unfair billing and a signal to the business community,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “You cannot charge consumers for charges they did not authorize.”
Image: Kid on tablet device, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, December 13th, 2012
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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