#CyberFLASH: Most kids’ apps, websites collect and share personal information


Most apps and websites for children collect personal information such as photos and addresses, and many say they may share that information with third parties, an annual global privacy survey suggests.

Privacy advocates are concerned about children’s online privacy because of the potential for young people to be lured by online predators or bullied over information they disclose online.

The third annual privacy sweep by enforcement organizations in 21 countries, including federal and provincial agencies in Canada, examined 1,494 apps and websites such as games, educational and social media websites, and apps, and sites hosted by children-friendly organizations like museums and zoos that either:

  • Targeted children specifically.
  • Didn’t target kids specifically but are popular among children.

The study Global Privacy Enforcement Network found:

  • 67 per cent of websites and apps surveyed collected personal information such as names, photos, addresses and phone numbers or via a chat function. Some of the worst offenders were music websites such as taylorswift.com and justinbiebermusic.com.
  • 51 per cent indicated they may disclose personal information to a third party.
  • 71 per cent had no simple way to delete account information.
  • 58 per cent sometimes directed children to other sites, often via contests or ads, including some that were inappropriate for children, such as those promoting dating websites and alcoholic beverages.
    Different agencies used various criteria for choosing apps and websites to survey.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner Canada, which looked at 172 of the sites and apps, relied on the website and app ranking service Alexa as well as app review sites such as bestappsforkids.com, parenting.com, and Common Sense Media.

The apps and websites evaluated by OPC employees and their children during the sweep from May 11 to 15 included many based in Canada.

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