State University of New York Institute of Technology
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Smart Phone Apps Collecting Data From Children

With the growing number of smartphones and smartphone apps, new issues are constantly being raised.  An ethical issue being raised now is the collection of personal data by apps targeting children.  The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act makes it illegal for companies to collect data from children without parental consent.  This act also stipulates that companies must spell out exactly what information is being collected and how it will be used.  So far one California company has been fined $50,000 for collecting names and email addresses from children through a mobile app.  A recent Federal Trade Commission report looked at 400 children’s cell phone apps, and found that only 2% of them divulge what information is being collected and how it will be used.  While much of this data collection is focused on tailoring ads, it is still unethical to be directly targeting children without parental consent.  Young children may not be able to differentiate between what is app content and what is ad content.  It is also unethical for apps to be tracking children’s locations, email addresses, and contact books without directly spelling out why this data is being collected.

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