Linnette Attai of PlayWell on Regulatory Issues for Children’s App Developers
Linnette Attai of PlayWell LLC explained Federal Trade Commission regulations for children’s apps in a recent interview. In 2012, they released two reports discussing their privacy concerns surrounding mobile apps created for children. Attai explained that many leading app developers failed to make any changes between the two reports. She said, “They’ve been looking closely at this space, and they haven’t been pleased with what they’ve seen.”
When it comes to features like social networking and in-app purchases, Attai said, “The Federal Trade Commission has warned the industry to start disclosing the presence of these features in their apps.” However, many developers have left these features in without disclosing their presence to parents. This poses a problem for parents, and Attai urges app developers to work together to ensure that regulations are followed. “Everyone in the mobile industry needs to be aware of regulations in this space,” said Attai, “Regardless of your industry, you need to be aware of the regulatory and self-regulatory requirements that apply. You also need to be aware of the limited cognitive ability of children and their sensibilities.”
Attai cited several reasons why all developers should pay closer attention to these FTC reports. “Parents need to be able to make informed decisions about their purchases for kids, and it’s incumbent upon the industry to make sure they have all the information they need,” said Attai. She also explained that children don’t view marketing messaging in the same way that adults do. “These guidelines are set up to ensure that we don’t take advantage of children and their cognitive abilities,” said Attai, referencing the FTC guidelines for children’s apps.
Even some of the developers behind some of the most popular apps in the market aren’t immune to criticism about their practices. Attai cited one major app developer who faced punishment after failing to provide proper disclosures. Attai said, “We do expect it’s likely we’ll see more of that in the future.”