Want to prevent online advertising services, data brokers, and Internet analytics services from tracking your kids’ smartphone activity? Well, now there’s an app for that.
Online privacy company Disconnect announced Monday the release of Disconnect Kids for Apple iOS. The app, which is currently available for free through the App Store, blocks 20 of the “biggest” Internet trackers, which are used to monitor activity, assess user engagement, and server targeted advertising, among other purposes.
“We’re able to leverage the iOS platform to prevent invisible tracking services from collecting browsing history, in-app activity, location, and other info from a user’s iPhone or iPad,” said Patrick Jackson, an ex-NSA engineer who led development of Disconnect Kids, in a statement.
Upon launching the app, Disconnect Kids includes an animated “story” and videos about how tracking works, in an effort to better educate children and parents about online privacy. Users of the app will the be required to allow Disconnect Kids to create a profile on their iPhone or iPad. Once the setup phase is completed, all 20 tracking companies, which include AdMob, DoubleClick, AOL Advertising, and more, will be automatically blocked by the app. Blocking means no more in-game ads popping up – but it also means far less data about your children’s gadget activity is available to companies that, legally speaking, shouldn’t have that data at all.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which the U.S. Federal Trade Commission updated with a new so-called COPPA Rule last December, mandates that companies may not legally collect certain data, including photos, videos, or geolocation data, connected to children under the age of 13, without explicit parental consent. The use of “persistent identifiers,” such as usernames, IP addresses, and device ID numbers, is also prohibited when connected to users under 13-years-old.
The problem, says Disconnect co-founder Brian Kennish, is that COPPA includes a “loophole” that makes it possible for kids’ data collection to take place: If a company does not have “actual knowledge” that a child is using an app, rather than a teenager or adult, the strict rules do not apply.
“Disconnect Kids aims to close this loophole by letting you actively block major mobile tracking companies and the network connections they try to make to your family’s devices,” said Kennish in a statement. “Until now, nobody had figured out how to stop personal data from leaving an iOS device.”
Watch the video below learn more about how Disconnect Kids: