Stop Mickey Mouse from Spying On Your Kids

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    As if they hadn’t already grafted themselves onto a significant portion of your own childhood memories (damn your catchy classics, Elton John and Phil Collins), the rise of more screens in the household has only meant more of The Mouse for your kids.

    Yet younger-skewing programming like Doc McStuffins (currently playing in the adjacent room, much to my infant son’s delight) apparently isn’t enough mental real estate for the animation giant, as they’ve been accused of using apps to collect illegal data from child users. Because why would you ever want to leave the Happiest Place on Earth?

    A California-based plaintiff has filed suit against both Disney and Viacom (who owns Nickelodeon, among several other networks), accusing them of violating privacy laws enacted to protect children, specifically the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule. Disney denied the suit’s merit, while Viacom has yet to issue a statement, as Consumerist reported earlier this week.

    With 42 Disney apps and 11 Viacom apps listed in the suit (read the full list here), here are a few ways to protect your child’s privacy if they insist on using apps (they will):

    Set up the app yourself:

    Install apps that your children want and use them yourself first. This lets you check for any suspicious data collection points, and will give you a sense for whether anything could be problematic within the app (one touch purchase prompts, for instance).

    Review the permissions:

    Most apps must request permission to access certain features in devices (location services, camera, microphone, etc.). If you didn’t screen these during the app setup, or you want to check back on what previously-installed apps have access to, review app permissions in your phone’s settings. Turn off anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to the app’s function.

    Uninstall the app:

    If you’re on the fence, sometimes it’s better to be safe and delete a troubling app outright. However, uninstalling may not be enough, as some apps may require you to erase a profile or other user data to fully delete any data tracked by the app. You can double check whether data has been erased by reinstalling the app and seeing if a login was preserved.

    Punt your smartphone into a body of water, pack your familial belongings in a van, drive until you no longer see city lights: 

    Sometimes going off the grid is the only option. Besides, who needs the music of “Frozen,” when you can whittle a perfectly good pan flute?



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