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GPEN Children’s Privacy Sweep Announced

On 11 May 2015, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the French data protection authority (CNIL) and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPCC) announced their participation in a new Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) privacy sweep to examine the data privacy practices of websites and apps aimed at or popular among children. This closely follows the results of GPEN’s latest sweep on mobile applications (apps),which suggested a high proportion of apps collected significant amounts of personal information but did not sufficiently explain how consumers’ personal information would be collected and used. We originally reported the sweep on mobile apps back in September 2014.

According to the CNIL and ICO, the purpose of this sweep is to determine a global picture of the privacy practices of websites and apps aimed at or frequently used by children. The sweep seeks to instigate recommendations or formal sanctions where non-compliance is identified and, more broadly, to provide valuable privacy education to the public and parents as well as promoting best privacy practice in the online space.

Background

GPEN was established in 2010 on the recommendation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. GPEN aims to create cooperation between data protection regulators and authorities throughout the world in order to globally strengthen personal privacy. GPEN is currently made up of 51 data protection authorities across some 39 jurisdictions.

According to the ICO, GPEN has identified a growing global trend for websites and apps targeted at (or used by) children. This represents an area that requires special attention and protection. From 12 to 15 May 2015, GPEN’s “sweepers”—comprised of 28 volunteering data protection authorities across the globe, including the ICO, CNIL and the OPCC—will each review 50 popular websites and apps among children (such as online gaming sites, social networks, and sites offering educational services or tutoring). In particular, the sweepers will seek to determine inter alia:

  • The types of information being collected from children;
  • The ways in which privacy information is explained, including whether it is adapted to a younger audience (e.g., through the use of easy to understand language, large print, audio and animations, etc.);
  • Whether protective controls are implemented to limit the collection of childrens’ personal information, such as requiring parental permission prior to use of the relevant services or collection of personal information; and
  • The ease with which one can request for personal information submitted by children to be deleted.

Comment

We will have to wait some time for in-depth analysis of the sweep, as the results are not expected to be published until the Q3 of this year. As with previous sweeps, following publishing of the results, we can expect data protection authorities to issue new guidance, as well as write to those organisations identified as needing to improve or take more formal action where appropriate.




GPEN Publishes Privacy Sweep Results

On 10 September 2014, the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) published the results of its privacy enforcement survey or “sweep” carried out earlier in 2014 with respect to popular mobile apps.  The results of the sweep are likely to lead to future initiatives by data protection authorities to protect personal information submitted to mobile apps.

The purpose of the sweep was to determine the transparency of the privacy practices of some 1,211 mobile apps and involved the participation of 26 data protection authorities across the globe.  The results of the sweep suggest that a high proportion of the apps downloaded did not sufficiently explain how consumers’ personal information would be collected and used.

Background

GPEN was established in 2010 on the recommendation of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  GPEN aims to create cooperation between data protection regulators and authorities throughout the world in order to strengthen personal privacy globally.  GPEN is currently made up of 51 data protection authorities across some 39 jurisdictions.

Over the course of a week in May 2014, GPEN’s “sweepers” – made up of 26 data protection authorities across 19 jurisdictions, including the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – participated in the survey by downloading and briefly interacting with the most popular apps released by developers in their respective jurisdictions, in an attempt to recreate a typical consumer’s experience.  In particular GPEN intended the sweep to increase public and commercial awareness of data protection rights and responsibilities as well as identify specific high-level issues which may become the focus of future enforcement actions and initiatives.

Sweep Results

The key negative findings of GPEN sweep include:

  • 85 percent of apps failed to clearly explain how personal information would be processed.
  • 59 percent of apps did not clearly indicate basic privacy information (with 11 percent failing to include any privacy information whatsoever).
  • 31 percent of apps were excessive in their permission requests to access personal information.
  • 43 percent of the apps had not sufficiently tailored their privacy communications for the mobile app platform – often instead relying on full version privacy policies found on websites.

However, the sweep results also highlighted a number of examples of best practices for app developers, including:

  • Many apps provided clear, easy-to-read and concise explanations about exactly what information would be collected, how and when it would be used and, in some instances, explained specifically and clearly what would not be done with the information collected.
  • Some apps provided links to the privacy policies of their advertising partners and opt-out elections in respect of analytic devices.
  • There were good examples of privacy policies specifically tailored to the app platform, successfully making use of just-in-time notifications (warning users when personal information was about to be collected or used), pop-ups and layered information, allowing for consumers to obtain more detailed information if required.

Many of the GPEN members are expected to take further action following the sweep results.  For its part, the UK ICO has commented that in light [...]

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