Project Finds 50% Of Apps And Websites Studied Share Personal Information Of Children

Security / Tech

According to an international project that analyzed 1,494 apps and websites around the world, 67 percent of these apps and websites collected personal information of children, and 50 percent of those analyzed shared said information with other organizations and entities.

The Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) performed the analysis during an annual privacy sweep and found staggering percentages revolving around just what children could share with webpages. The results found include:

  • 67 percent collected children’s personal information
  • 31 percent had effective controls in place to limit the collection of personal information from children
  • 50 percent shared personal information with third parties
  • 22 percent provided an opportunity for children to give their phone number
  • 23 percent allowed users to upload photos or video
  • 58 percent offered children the opportunity to be redirected to a different website
  • 24 percent encouraged parental involvement
  • 71 percent did not offer an accessible means for deleting account information.

GPEN won’t share the list of apps and sites where this information can be given, but according to David Papp, a technology expert and president of MicroTek Corporation, sites do this for better targeting of ads but he also stressed the importance of teaching children about online privacy and being secure in browsing.

“A lot of the apps and websites need some personal information because they use it to target ads to people and to qualify whether you’re of legal age or not and to be able to share info out to your group of friends, to expand their reach on their ads,” he said. “Number one: teach them to be open with you. Number two, depending on the age of the children, the computer should be in a public location in the household that you can see it, maybe around the kitchen or living room, not a private room.”

Papp also mentioned that both children and parents should ask themselves, ‘why do they need to know this? How is this information going to be used?’ He also thinks that younger generations should consider how they use the Internet and how that follows them.

“The problem I have with a lot of younger generations is they treat online social networks as like a popularity contest. They don’t know all people they’re connected to….that’s where it becomes very dangerous. That information will haunt you later on in life. A – the access that people have to your information that’s private and B – some friend posts a funny photo of you, you did something silly, and now it’s part of your digital paper trail.”

The focus of this year’s privacy sweep project focused on online privacy for children and 29 data and information protection regulation agencies participated in the sweep.

“This global sweep provides a unique opportunity for us to collaborate with international information and data protection authorities on issues of mutual concern, such as this year’s focus on children’s privacy,” Jill Clayton, Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, said. “Each day, more people become aware of the massive amounts of their personal information being shared between organizations.These statistics on children’s personal information may provide parents and guardians with a moment of reflection to ask, ‘Why do organizations want to know this much about my child? What are the potential benefits or harms to my child? How can I have more control over my child’s personal information?’”

The project also turned up a number of apps and websites that are providing effective controls of protection. Those include parental dashboards, avatars and usernames that are pre-set, preventing children from accidentally sharing their personal information. There were some sites with chat functions that only allowed children to choose words and phrases from pre-approved lists. There were also “just-in-time” warnings to keep children from giving out personal information.

For those interested, the annual privacy sweep included a lesson plan for students in seventh and eighth grade, showing them how to conduct their own privacy sweeps while giving them a bit of an insight on just how personal information can be obtained.

Of course, children shouldn’t be the only ones taking a look at how their information is obtained or used while surfing the world-wide web. Are you concerned with your privacy, or your children’s for that matter, while online? Let us know in the comments below or on any of our social media accounts.

  Source: Global News
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