back to article FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data

The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services. In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a start but it's missing worse issues.

    While the many companies that harvest more information than they need deserve to have their knuckles rapped, I'd like to see the larger issues with child targeting "adware" fixed more urgently. Many of these apps are essentially a thin wrapper of education over a thicker wrapper of adware disguised as a game. The worst of them are based around was is essentially add click fraud based on unpaid child labor. If that sounds both outrageous and insidious it is. If it sounds outlandish, it is not.

    I say one of these games in action on a long road trip once. The driver had handed their pre-K child an iPad during the drive, and opened a game that pretended to be a logic puzzle based on triangles. Superficially it was designed to appeal to parents as a learning/logic app, but on closer observation the game had a "hint" button that would play an ad to get a hint of what the next move in a solution was. I watched in horror as the kid played 40 ads in the span of 30 min spamming that hint button instead of solving the puzzle. It was nothing more than a skinner box built to condition babies to watch monetized ads all day. And the driver was none the wiser as the sound was ducked down during the ads, so all the driver heard was their little genius solving spatial logic puzzles. Evil.

    Certainly bust the ad networks profiling and targeting kids and selling their information, just don't leave out the app builders exploiting unpaid child labor to run the back end of their click-fraud botnet.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: It's a start but it's missing worse issues.

      Years ago a US confectionary company produced a maths* textbook that used its own products to demonstrate arithmetic (if I start with 25 M&M's** and eat 7, how many do I have left?). They wanted the local education board to adopt the book and mandate it as the only maths textbook permitted for use in the area's state schools.

      *I'm a Brit, we says "maths", not "math", sorry.

      **(I think it was M&M's, but I'm not sure. Other American confectioners are available.)

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: It's a start but it's missing worse issues.

        Training the young to imprint on your product(s) is an old trick. Check the fight between Google and Microsoft to supply their own kit to educational structures: Once they have imprinted on it, those kids will keep preferring it all their lives ("Baby duck syndrome").

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: It's a start but it's missing worse issues.

          Is that why IBM was so keen to 'sell' computers to universities?

  2. Foxglove

    Wrong options...

    'COPPA took effect in April, 2000 and was amended in 2013. It applies to commercial websites and online services (including mobile apps and IoT devices) aimed at, or known to be used by, children under 13 that collect, use, or disclose personal information. It requires that such services provide notice of data use and obtain parental consent.'

    It should prohibit collection, use and disclosure of said data.

    That way there would never be a need for parental consent.

    Such consent may be difficult to avoid if the child is told to use a service by an educational establishment, at which point it's not really consent any longer.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Wrong options...

      Agree. "Consent" is just a fig leaf to make it look like there is some control.

      Even if we ignore those parents who just don't care, many/most of the caring parents don't have the information needed to make an informed choice, and are under pressure from both their kids ("all my buddies use it"), the society ("keep up with the times weirdo"), and indeed often from clueless education structures ("that's what we use and that's final").

      But then there is money to be made, future suckers consumers to be trained educated, so concerns are put aside. Money doesn't just talk, it also lubricates...

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Wrong options...

        I expect the 'suppliers' of the 'free' 'educational' applications would claim that without the possibility of making some money from the kiddies' data, there would be no apps and the kiddies would be deprived of the education that is their right.

        It does rather remind me of the lines from Tom Lehrer's song 'The Old Dope Pedler':

        "He gives the kids free samples,

        Because he knows full well,

        That today's young, innocent faces,

        Will be tomorrow's clientele."

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: Wrong options...

          Having posted that a few days ago, I am now listening to 'The Empire of Pain', about the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma's promotion of the opioid Oxycontin 'pain killer' in the USA. Basically, with help from the FDA they seem to have legalised heroin addiction and supply, and been able to tax it.

  3. choleric

    Love the subhead

    But who shot who?

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