Websites and mobile applications can collect and share kids' personal information
Websites and mobile applications can collect and share kids' personal information

Websites and mobile applications can collect and share kids’ personal information, Report

Websites and mobile applications that appeal to children are often not taking adequate steps to protect kids’ privacy, according to a global investigation.

“Our children are growing up in a digital world, with technology increasingly integrated into their lives. It is now normal for children to be exposed to tablets, cellphones and websites from a very young age,” said Commissioner Denham.

“In this GPEN sweep, privacy regulators from around the world took a close look at nearly 1,500 websites and apps popular with children to assess how much personal information was being collected by companies behind these websites, and what privacy policies and controls were in place to protect that information,” added Denham.

A total of 29 privacy regulators took part in the third annual GPEN privacy sweep, which took place in May of this year. Here in British Columbia, officials analyzed 100 different websites that provide social media, gaming, and educational content to children in North America.

Following the sweep, the GPEN found that two-thirds of websites children visit collect personal information. Moreover, these websites failed to explain, in child-friendly terms, what personal information is being collected or how it might be shared.

“Privacy law requires that organizations have a privacy policy that explains to their customers what personal information is being collected, for what purpose, and whether that information will be shared with outside parties. This requirement extends to information collected online. Children and their parents should have the opportunity to read and understand what a company is doing with their personal information before deciding whether to download an app or continue using a website,” said Denham.

The sweep also identified several websites that allowed children to share personal information with strangers or upload sensitive details to the internet without protections or controls.

“We came across one website that invited children to upload drawings to their website. Though seemingly harmless, one of the pictures had a child’s full name and address. If websites give kids the opportunity to post information online, there should be monitoring tools in place to prevent the publication of personal information,” said Denham.

Denham is now calling on website developers to find ways to protect children’s privacy, such as by limiting the amount of personal information collected, using child-friendly language to communicate privacy policies, and by providing tools to help get parents more involved.

Announced on Wednesday, the B.C. office will continue to follow up with websites that prompted privacy concerns during the GPEN sweep.


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