children using phones

Data Privacy, Mobile Apps, and your Children

Sep 25, 2020 | Parenting | By familyplan

Data privacy issues can impact your children, particularly if they use mobile apps

Many children these days have an online presence starting at birth – 92% by the age of 2. By the time these kids reach their teenage years, 45% of them are spending 9 hours or more online. With cyberbullying, online predators, data breaches, and identity theft at an all-time high, parents have to ask themselves how they are taking measures to protect their children. Read on to learn more about data privacy and tips to help protect your family.

What is GDPR?

General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is the best example currently of rules designed to protect children online (as well as all other online users). It applies to data collected and processed from users who are residents of the European Union. It is the most strictly regulated policy in the world and imposes transparency, limitations, accountability, and confidentiality regulations on organizations. 

GDPR regulations state that any minor under the age of 16, or 13 in some countries, cannot legally provide their own consent for companies to store their data. These rules mirror  COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which is a US-based regulation prohibiting companies from collecting personal data on minors under the age of 13. 
Mobile apps that handle data from EU residents are subject to the GDPR policies, regardless of where the app is operated. As the GDPR regulations become more widely adopted, users should be knowledgeable of their rights under GDPR when it comes to protecting their data—and their children’s.

Mobile Data Privacy in the United States

Mobile apps have unique data privacy concerns that do not pertain to laptops and desktop computers. For both you and your kids, the following are some of the considerations users should keep in mind when thinking about their personal data within a mobile app:

Location Tracking: 

Mobile phones are one of the only products that are almost always with us. Because of this, companies have access to user locations and can define travel patterns that identify the user. They even have enough information to make a good estimate of where you will be at any given time.

Data Sensors: 

Microphone, camera, and keypads are only some of the additional data points that a mobile phone can collect. Phones can also track data such as heart rates, accelerations, and proximity to others. Many of these sensors are engaged and stored voluntarily (i.e. camera and microphone use for recording a video). But, there have been cases of companies storing and sharing this information to third parties without the user’s knowledge. 

Contact Information:

Phones carry contact information about the user. This includes sensitive data referring to accounts and logins that can be shared with developers. In addition, the email addresses, phone numbers, names, and physical addresses of friends and families are commonly stored on the phone and can be shared. To protect your child’s data privacy, make sure to disable the feature in any app that automatically connects users to contacts in their phone book. 

Photographs, Videos, and Audio Recordings

Many apps gain access to photos, video,s and recordings stored on a user’s mobile phone. Users often forget that even though a photo is deleted off of the local device, third-party apps may still be storing these photos on their local servers. Restricting your child’s photo and video sharing with apps on their phone can add another layer of protection. 

Small Screens

Mobile devices have small screens (or no screens). Because of this, it is much harder to review data policies and understand your rights. In many cases, applications get away with lower data privacy and security protections because users do not take the time to read the small print. This effect is heightened on a mobile device. 

Data Security and Your Kids

Mobile malware attacks have more than doubled in the last two years. And kids are just as vulnerable as the rest of us, yet far less likely to be aware of and vigilant to the risks. One study found that 27% of all companies globally were impacted by cyber-attacks that involved mobile devices. Here are some tips to help protect both your and your kids’ mobile devices from potential breaches:

Use multi-factor authentication. At a minimum, your device should always be password protected. Enabling multi-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security that is much harder to breach. 

Avoid storing sensitive data on your mobile device. If your phone was ever hacked or stolen, they should never have access to extremely sensitive data. Never store important information such as social security or bank numbers on your phone. 

Validate files using a sanity check. Make sure the files you are downloading match the expected file extension type and size.

Update your operating system regularly. Updates to your operating system often include fixes for code vulnerabilities and more up-to-date security settings. 

Avoid public wifi. When you find yourself needing to use public wifi, do not access any sensitive data, download documents, or visit unfamiliar websites.

Enable remote data wipes and back-up your data regularly. In the event that your device has been lost or stolen, you want to be able to delete the data on your device and access it from another system.

 At Family Plan, we know how important the safety of your child is to you. Unlike many products, we built our product to comply with the policies that protect your data the most. You can find out more about our data security policies here.

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