FTC Still Dubious: Let’s Show Them What We’ve Got

Did you know that the FTC came out with another report, slapping the industry’s wrist about children’s online privacy? They say that not enough apps are disclosing what they do (or do not do) with data. This is getting tiring, especially after all of the efforts by family-friendly developers to do the right thing by creating a set of iconic disclosures. Shall we review, so we can help tackle this?

App Developers

Please, if you haven’t done so already, include a privacy policy in your marketing materials, describing in plain language what you do and do not do with data. Be accurate, and do not incriminate yourself or provide false information. If you like icons, try these;  if you need background, read this; and if you want to know next steps, tune into what ACT (a tech industry association) is doing to move the ball forward. Most importantly, read the FTC report, which summarizes what they’d like to see regarding how your app works and what information it shares.

Parents

Please visit Settings > General > Restrictions on your iDevice, and set up your mobile computing framework to be family-friendly. That might mean turning off wi-fi, in app purchases, or any content not rated 4+. Also, co-play and parent participation help us learn how kids are navigating online. The FTC has also provided parent resources, including “Six Tips for Using Apps With Kids“.

App Stores

Please provide a standard place to designate app features in the body of app descriptions. Consider items such as social media connectivity, ads, in app purchases, 3rd party services, location, or personal information as fields a developer can “check” if they are included in the app. Also, please consider having a Kids App Store, so that sensitive privacy issues can be handled separately from the thousands of random apps available.

Government

Instead of telling us what we aren’t doing right, please give more specific examples of what we ARE doing right, by means of providing a superb example disclosure, or a set of industry standards that you would support. Specifically, where you put “Tips for Parents” on your website, could you also include “Tips for Developers” along with examples of privacy disclosures you endorse?

Rest of World

Know that any efforts to be an educator, or an advocate, of great content for kids is a huge contribution to parents, kids, and the app economy. Please continue to shine the spotlight on initiatives that make a difference.

On the Spot

Today I participated in the conversation with KQED, our public broadcasting station in the Bay Area, to answer their questions about kids’ online privacy and my reaction to the FTC Report. Here is the four minute interview (graciously edited) with Stephanie Martin.

Resources

7 thoughts on “FTC Still Dubious: Let’s Show Them What We’ve Got”

  1. Great resource post – a must read for all developers of kids apps.

    Your NPR piece was exceptional, too. It was such a thoughtful explanation of the complex situation around privacy issues. Bravo!

  2. Hi Lorraine,

    I haven’t followed this discussion as closely as you have, but I doubt that the FTC has an issue with the level of disclosure that you’ve been advocating. I suspect that the FTC really wants Apple, Google, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et. al. to make these kinds of disclosure mandatory on their respective platforms. I think it is the voluntary nature of these disclosures that is the problem, not the disclosures themselves.

    I think that you’ve done a great job on this issue. I know that I’ve learned a lot and would not have a privacy policy for my app if I hadn’t started reading your blog.

    Dave

  3. Hi @David, thanks for weighing in. I think you are correct that a major part of progress will be the actions of the platform providers (app stores) like Apple and Google. Also, whenever someone writes a privacy policy, then they need to follow through or else they can incriminate themselves if any information is falsely stated. So there is liability inherent in the issue which I think is some reason for the slow progress.

  4. Lorraine, Thanks again for your hard work on this issue. Your blog post has come to me both through my developer contacts and from friends who are also parents and consumers.
    I agree with David in that I have a much better understanding of the issue thanks to your blog.
    How would you feel about us translating this post into Spanish to post on our own blog? Many developers here don’t have the language skills to make any sense of the FTC’s style of writing.

  5. @Michelle – great idea to translate the post! Anything on this blog is completely open to replication (at your own risk 😉 – spread the word! –Lorraine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *