Mobile apps may or may not be collecting your child’s data—but here’s why you should assume they are

This week two democratic senators are calling on federal regulators to investigate if children’s apps are tracking their data.

Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sent a letter on Wednesday to the Federal Trade Commission, writing they are concerned that numerous apps are potentially violating the law.

Without explicit parental consent, it is illegal to collect data on children under the age of 13 according to the Children Online Privacy Protection Act, which went into effect in 2000.

This comes after last month when the New Mexico Attorney Generalsued the maker of app Fun Kid Racing, as well as the online ad businesses run by Google, Twitter and three other companies.

The suit accused the companies of violating the law, and that Google misled parents by allowing apps to remain in its Google Play store children’s section after it was notified by researchers that thousands of apps may be tracking young children.

“The problem is this – we don’t know where the onus lies,” New York Times reporter Edmund Lee told CNBC’s “On the Money” in an interview.

Lee says the law isn’t clear on whether it should be the platform such as Google or Apple to make sure the apps in their stores are complying with the law, whether it’s up to the game developer or if it should be up to the third party data firm tracking the data.

“So there’s a whole system in place that everyone keeps passing the buck and there’s no case law yet,” says Lee. “Even the legislation – it’s not entirely clear who is ultimately responsible.”

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So what should a parent do if they are concerned their child is being tracked?

Lee says, “You should just assume it’s going to happen you should assume you’re going to be tracked.”

“Right now it’s the ‘Wild West’ there are very few protections, few sort of places of enforcement around it, and that’s why it’s hard as a parent and as a kid to navigate,” he added.

However, Lee notes most of these are harmless games, and the tracking data is used for advertising purposes, which is how these companies make money.

For parents worried about their child’s privacy – Lee says he tells his own daughter to keep her communication online only with people she knows.

“You’re not going to be able to look and know every single piece of data that’s being floated out there until there’s legislation and case law in place. But in the meantime make sure you know who your kid is talking to and it shouldn’t be strangers and it shouldn’t be someone they just met online.”

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What PR Pros Must Do Before Collecting Insights From Media Coverage

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Measuring media relations success has to start at the top. Meaning, before you start collecting insights from your coverage, you need to have a benchmark of what your ideal story is, and everyone, from the CEO level down, needs to be in agreement about what that is.

This was the central media relations tenet expressed by Visit Philly’s communications team at PR News’ recent Measurement Conference in Philadelphia. Paula Butler, VP of communications, Dana Schmidt, director of social media, and Kevin Lessard, senior analyst, have a clear idea of what the perfect story is for Visit Philly, the official visitor website for Philadelphia travel and tourism.

Visit Philly’s top-down-agreed-upon ideal story:

  • Published in a high-profile outlet
  • Has a great headline
  • Is a full-length feature as opposed to a mention
  • Includes a great image or video (preferably credited to Visit Philly)
  • And it links to one of Visit Philly’s websites, which is their perfect call to action

Obviously, every organization has its own version of what its ideal media story is. But unless you hash it out with the C-suite on down the line, measurement efforts and the reporting of metrics will quite likely result in so-what shrugs and glazed expressions.

With its ideal story in mind, the Visit Philly communications team starts by measuring the traditional things like:

• clip counts

• impressions generated

• the breakdown of coverage by media type

• sentiment

Then they dig into the earned media data they’re collecting. These additional metrics can be changed depending on what you value in your coverage, Lessard said:

Coverage by topic—This drives Visit Philly’s content strategy. What performs well, and when?

Coverage by type of placement—Visit Philly places an emphasis on driving more feature coverage (vs. mentions).

Coverage using beautiful images—If you have visual resources, make sure the media knows about them. (Visit Philly recently launched a redesign of its online pressroom, placing a big emphasis on visual content.)

Coverage conveying key messages from a corporate standpoint.

Geographic breakdown of coverage (by DMA)

Coverage in A-list media—For Visit Philly, A-list media comprises local, regional and national travel/lifestyle outlets (see image above).

All efforts to pinpoint a brand’s ideal media story and select the right metrics go down the drain without meticulous tracking and smart repurposing of coverage for internal and external stakeholders, Lessard said. Beyond sharing coverage on social media, you should consider repackaging media coverage in the form of a regular e-newsletter sent to employees and boards of directors. You helped create the good news about your organization—be creative about distributing that good news.

 

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