OIPC Participating in Global Privacy Sweep of Apps and Websites Used by Children

May 11, 2015

For the second time, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) is participating in the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) Privacy Sweep from May 11-17, 2015.

The GPEN was established in 2010 to foster cross-border cooperation among privacy authorities. There are 30 privacy enforcement authorities from around the world participating in the third annual sweep, an increase from 26 authorities in 2014.

The 2015 sweep will involve a coordinated effort by participants to examine websites and mobile applications (apps) for issues related to children’s privacy. This theme was chosen after many privacy enforcement authorities identified children as a key area of focus given the proliferation of websites and mobile apps targeted at, or popular among, this vulnerable demographic.

We know from previous privacy sweeps that many mobile apps and websites collect a great deal of personal information. Apps and websites geared at young audiences raise privacy concerns related to the types of personal information being collected on these platforms.

As part of the initiative, sweepers will assess whether the apps and websites examined collect personal information from children and if so, whether protective controls exist to limit that collection.

They will also assess whether the websites and apps seek parental involvement, whether they allow users to be redirected off the site, whether they make it easy to delete personal information and whether privacy communications are tailored to the age group through approaches such as simple language, large print, audio and animation.

During sweep week, participants will select apps and/or websites that are either targeted at or popular among children between 12-13 years of age. Participants might choose to focus on locally developed apps/websites or those from across jurisdictions. They might look specifically at games, social media or educational websites/apps, or choose to sweep a combination thereof.

Last year, the OIPC reviewed 21 apps from the private, public and health sectors in Alberta. In total, 1,211 apps were examined by privacy enforcement authorities worldwide.

The goals of the sweep initiative include:

  • Increasing public and business awareness of privacy rights and responsibilities · Encouraging compliance with privacy legislation
  • Identifying concerns that may be addressed through targeted education and/or enforcement
  • Enhancing cooperation amongst privacy enforcement authorities. Concerns identified during the sweep may result in follow-up work such as outreach to organizations and/or enforcement action.
  • The results of this year’s sweep will be compiled and made public this fall.