21 November 2013

Many mobile educational and game applications (apps), despite being designed for young children, have been identified monitoring children's geographical locations and selling the information to advertisers.

Apps on your phone may request permission to access location, address book, email, SMS and other information as part of their normal functions, but for some apps, access to this information may not be necessary. If you are concerned about the privacy of your family, read the permission information carefully and be selective about granting the app access to information on your phone.

Managing an app’s access to information requires careful attention to the permissions you give when you load it on your smartphone or tablet.

Security firm Bitdefender recently warned about the practice after noticing that some Android games such as Kids Educational Puzzles were requesting permission to track their users’ locations. This information is often sold to advertisers, who use it to target advertisements to specific types of users in particular parts of the world.

Android devices will show a warning screen when an app is installed and run, outlining exactly what type of information it wants to access. The latest version of Android (4.3), installed on new Android devices, includes an App Ops feature that lets you allow or block specific activities for each installed app.

iPhones and iPads do not explicitly highlight the types of data they collect, but you can control apps' access to location information by looking in Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

Many security vendors provide solutions that can scan your currently installed apps to tell you which are collecting location or other personal information.

See the links below for specific instructions about how to manage location settings.

More information

Collecting personal information about young children is prohibited under legislation such as the United States Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which prohibits the collection of personal information about children aged under 13. Australia’s Privacy Act 1988 prevents the collection of personally identifiable information on any user without explicit instructions about what data is to be collected and what it is to be used for.

Android: how to manage Location in Google Settings

Apple iOS 7: Understanding Location Services

Apple iOS 6: Understanding Location Services

The information provided here is of a general nature. Everyone’s circumstances are different. If you require specific advice you should contact your local technical support provider.

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Disclaimer

This information has been prepared by Enex TestLab for the Department of Communications ('the Department'). It was accurate and up to date at the time of publishing.

This information is general information only and is intended for use by private individuals and small to medium sized businesses. If you are concerned about a specific cyber security issue you should seek professional advice.

The Commonwealth, Enex TestLab, and all other persons associated with this advisory accept no liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the provision of this information, whether by way of negligence or otherwise.

Nothing in this information (including the listing of a person or organisation or links to other web sites) should be taken as an endorsement of a particular product or service.

Please note that third party views or recommendations included in this information do not reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth also cannot verify the accuracy of any third party material included in this information.

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