Online app stores are filled with software programs that secretly collect vast amounts of data on young web and app users, including their location and even recordings of their voice, latest report claims.
According to privacy researchers and consumer advocates, mobile app makers have not stopped developing applications that collect vast amount of sensitive data through software aimed at kids, despite of the US federal privacy rulings that calls for app developers to get parental consent before collecting personal data on anyone younger than 13.
“Kids are such a lucrative market, especially for apps. Unfortunately, there are still companies out there that are more concerned about generating revenue than protecting the privacy of kids,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.
Knowingly or unknowingly, Americans have shared vast amounts of personal data in exchange for the ease and functionality of fun mobile applications on their phones. They are even not aware of how their personal information is being put to use by advertisers or local governments.
Chester and other consumer advocates have claimed that fast food chains are increasingly focusing on digital media advertising, targeting blacks and Hispanics. The advocates also warn that personal data collected from phones can be combined with offline information like home prices, race or income in ways that could violate fair lending laws.
According to PrivacyGrade.org, which is run by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, many popular kids’ apps like Talking Tom and Fruit Ninja collect information in ways parents wouldn’t necessarily expect. While, Fruit Ninja collects a player’s location, Talking Tom taps in a child’s audio recordings.
Jason Hong, who runs PrivacyGrade.org, says it’s hard to know exactly what developers are doing with the information they collect. Hong said he thinks the government should devote more resources to evaluating popular apps and working with developers to promote basic privacy standards.
“It’s part of a long conversation about what is privacy, and what we should be doing every day,” he said.