The Times West Virginian


December 12, 2012

Technology laws must be updated to protect kids

Want to draw a picture or play a game and have your name, phone number, email address and even your exact geographic location sent to software companies and advertisers?

Yeah, there’s an app for that.

The Federal Trade Commission is currently looking into applications, or “apps,” for mobile devices that do exactly that. The kicker though? These apps are specifically geared toward children using tablets, phones and MP3 players.

The staff of the FTC randomly chose 200 apps from carrier stores by typing in the word “kids.” About 60 percent of those apps, once downloaded onto a phone, transmitted the device information to software companies, data brokers and advertising networks, which compile consumer information to develop marketing campaigns.

But a device ID, unique to the exact mobile device you are using, is a pathway to even more information. More than a dozen of those randomly selected apps retrieved the exact geographic location of the device.

“It’s not hypothetical that this information was shared,” Jessica Rich, associate director of the FTC’s financial practices division, told The Associated Press.

Now remember, these apps are specifically designed for and used by children.

According to the FTC report “mobile apps can siphon data to ‘invisible and unknown’ third parties that could be used to develop a detailed profile of a child without a parent’s knowledge or consent.”

Only about 20 percent of these apps had any privacy disclosures, and even then, the disclosures were inadequate. And most of them linked to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, which should not be available to a child under the age of 13.

And in this test sampling, just 200 out of the thousands and thousands of apps out there geared toward children, one such game had banner ads across the bottom of the screen advertising “1000s of Sexy Singles.”

And it’s an audience catered to children.

Parenting experts used to recommend that computers be kept in common living areas so that parents could monitor their child’s Internet usage. But these days, everyone carries a computer around in their pocket or backpack as smartphones and tablets have evolved.

Are these companies violating privacy rights of children? Maybe. Is this unethical, unfair, deceptive or illegal behavior? The FTC plans to make that determination.

Right now, the FTC wants to overhaul the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which would have even stronger safeguards for children under the age of 13. It’s probably the right move. Technology developed last year is outdated. Think about laws that govern technology and how outdated they must be after 14 years.

Laws have to keep up with technology. There is no way to write an expansive law to protect the rights and privacy of children today for tomorrow’s technology. Laws have to regularly be reviewed, updated and current.

Technology is measured by months. In March, Apple and Google had 880,000 apps available for mobile devices. Today, there are 1.4 million. That’s 1.4 million reasons why we need to think about protecting the privacy of our children.

Text Only
  • If something seems too good to be true, then assume that it is

    Scam. noun. A confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle.
    This is a word that Marion Countians have heard a lot about in the past few years. And the problem appears to be one that is getting worse every day.

    July 31, 2014

  • State must convince parents, schools about benefits of Common Core

    It’s always nice to have a little bit of background information before diving into something new.
    So we have to agree with West Virginia Board of Education president Gayle Manchin when she says the state should have done a better job of explaining Common Core standards when they were first introduced.
    Those standards, part of a national educational initiative that sets learning goals designed to prepare students in kindergarten through 12th grade for college and career, will be fully implemented in every West Virginia school district next month.

    July 30, 2014

  • Time is now for Tomblin to support King Coal Highway

    U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to add the King Coal Highway project to West Virginia’s six-year highway improvement plan. It is a logical request, and one that Tomblin should act promptly on.

    July 29, 2014

  • United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project

    The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
    That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.

    July 27, 2014

  • COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard

    I love to talk to readers.
    I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.

    July 27, 2014

  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads