Google’s marketing of children’s apps misleads parents, groups say

Source: Natasha Singer & Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, N.Y.Times

A group of 22 children’s and consumer organizations is calling for a federal investigation into Google’s marketing of children’s apps in its Google Play store, just the latest in a series of rebukes by experts about how the company handles technology aimed at youngsters.

Google has promoted the “Family” section of its Play store as a place where parents can find age-appropriate apps for children. But in a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, the advocacy groups said the company’s endorsement of the apps was misleading. The groups said that some apps in that section contained content unsuitable for children, showed ads for casino games for adults or pushed youngsters into watching video ads and making in-app purchases.

The groups also said some apps appeared to violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law that prohibits sites and apps for children from collecting phone numbers, precise location, photographs, persistent tracking identifiers and other personal information from children under 13 without verifiable consent from a parent. The complaint cited an investigation by The New York Times in September that found some children’s apps collected precise location information and tracking identifiers without verifiable parental permission.

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