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Apple’s Kids Category Bans Ads and Third Party Tracking

In Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday afternoon they announced App Store Developer Guidelines in the Kids Category.  What this means is that there are more stringent guidelines for protecting children when it comes to app developers from tracking your child’s data.  

The Kids Category

In Apple’s App Store Review Guideline’s Release they noted the update to the Kids Category as follows:

1.3 Kids Category

The Kids Category is a great way for people to easily find apps that are designed for children. If you want to participate in the Kids Category, you should focus on creating a great experience specifically for younger users. These apps must not include links out of the app, purchasing opportunities, or other distractions to kids unless reserved for a designated area behind a parental gate. Keep in mind that once customers expect your app to follow the Kids Category requirements, it will need to continue to meet these guidelines in subsequent updates, even if you decide to deselect the category. Learn more about parental gates.

Apps in the Kids Category may not include third-party advertising or analytics. You should also pay particular attention to privacy laws around the world relating to the collection of data from children online. Be sure to review the Privacy section of these guidelines for more information.

What Are Parental Gates?

Parental Gates are used in apps targeted towards kids to prevent them from engaging in commerce or following links out of an app to websites, social networks, or other apps without the knowledge of their parent or guardian. You must complete and adult level task in order to continue.  It’s an added layer of security.

It’s been all too easy for children to make In-App purchases amounting to hundreds of dollars on their parents credit cards.  Or ads appearing with the tiniest “X” that only an adult could get out of, and the child is brought out of the app to a new page.  These apps have been tracking your children and their activity and targeting them with ads and monitoring their location.

Apps Tracking Your Data

Just last week Washington Post Technology columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler published an article about all the apps tracking his data from his iPhone in the middle of the night.  His privacy experiment showed 5,400 hidden app trackers guzzled our data in a single week. Apps include the Nike app, Spotify and the Weather Channel.  

With Apple advertising “what happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone” they seem to hypocrites more than privacy experts.  So how can we trust that their new Kid’s Category guidelines will be enforced and aren’t just a PR stunt?

Limit Ad Tracking

While this new update to the Kids Category is supposed to ban ads and third party tracking, kids sometimes use apps outside of the Kids Category.  In this case Apple offers a privacy setting called “Limit Ad Tracking”. The default setting is not set to on, so you will need to turn it on. This setting makes it a little bit harder for companies to track you across apps, by using a unique identifier for every iPhone. To turn on:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Privacy.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and tap Advertising.
  4. Toggle the Limit Ad Tracking switch ON.

Privacy Laws

Privacy Laws in the United States must follow the Children Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from children under 13 years of age.

Kids apps like TikTok have been fined a record $5.8 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for not complying with COPPA.  The app developers did not adhere to the law in protecting children users under the age of 13. A very costly mistake, one that all developers should take note of.   

Let’s all hope for the sake of our children that Apple means business with these new kids privacy guidelines.  If not, they’ll have to answer to the FTC and a bunch of angry moms.

Related: What Is The Best Texting App For Kids?

About Holly Zink
I am interested in everything digital media and tech! Videos, photography, social media.

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