Edu-apps may be STALKING YOUR KIDS, feds warn

Vendors scolded over possible privacy violations

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning parents after the discovery of possible user-tracking activity by educational software for children.

The commission said that some children's education software, such as that marketed by China-based BabyBus, appears to be collecting locational data from users and possibly tracking their activity.

According to FTC attorney Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, that behavior is both "creepy" and a possible violation of the US Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

"BabyBus knows exactly where your child is when she is playing their game," Weintraub Schifferle wrote. "And there’s nothing stopping them from sharing that with advertisers. All this happens without your consent."

The COPPA act of 1998 places strict protections on the handling of children's personal information online. Under the act, vendors are required to obtain express permission from parents before collecting data about children under age 13 in the US.

The FTC said that it has sent a warning letter [PDF] to BabyBus asking the company to review its products and make sure that its activities do not violate COPPA. The agency said that it will give BabyBus time to review the notice and will revisit the matter in one month's time.

In the meantime, the commission is advising parents to read up on the vendors that make educational apps for children and always be aware of the permissions that apps request upon launching.

"Check what information the app collects. Look at the app’s permissions to see if the app shares location, photos, contacts or other personal information," the FTC advises. "If it does and you don’t want your child’s personal information shared, then don’t download that app." ®

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