Santa-tracking apps track you, too

Posted at 9:10 AM, Dec 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-14 11:10:28-05

(Better Business Bureau) - Many of these “Santa Apps” as we are calling them will include some kind of interaction with your child. It may need your location so it can track Santa to your area, or it maybe it’s offering to send your child’s e-wishlist straight to Mr. Claus.

Better Business Bureau is asking parents to be careful with the information you provide the apps. There’s an acronym, COPPA, which stands for “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.” It’s a law that gives parents more control over who collects information from and about their children. The rules apply to all mobile apps and websites, even those based at the North Pole.

COPPA allows parents the chance to give permission before anyone collections personal, identifiable information about children under age 13. That includes names, addresses, emails, birth dates, photos, and location information.

So, as easy it is to just click “Agree” and move on when you are downloading a new app: read the privacy policy. The best apps will describe what info they collect and why.

So for example, “Santa trackers” may be using technology precise enough to identify the street, city and state where your child’s device is located. Under COPPA, you would have to consent to that.

For any app your children may use: set permission requirements. Many apps that are listed as free in the app store have in-app purchases that might be accessed by children after a parent has allowed them to download the app. Make sure the device requires a password your child does not know for purchases.

Also, browse the app before your children do. Many free apps also include advertising. If an app is meant for both children and parents to use, then not all of its advertisements may be appropriate for younger children and may contain ads for games or films rated for older audiences.