Here’s another reason to keep a close eye on your child’s smartphone use: They could be logged onto dating apps. Three dating apps let children as young as 12 use their services, according to the Federal Trade Commission. It described this practice as “extremely problematic.”
Meet24, FastMeet and Meet4U, apps owned by a Ukrainian-based company Wildec LLC, collected data on users, including their birth date and location data. The apps’ user policies stated they were off limits to kids under 13, the FTC said, but they still collected data on these children.
pulled the apps from their stores, the FTC said. Eugene Yatsenko, Wildec’s manager, told MarketWatch he took action after receiving the May 1 letter and now minors “cannot access our services right now and cannot create any new account.”
Federal law says there must be “verifiable parental consent” before any site can collect personal data from a child under 13. Wildec’s failure to do so appeared to violate federal rules, wrote Maneesha Mithal, associate director of the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.
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In fact, regulators said they were “able to search for other users by age and location to find users near our location who indicated that they were young as 12 years old.” (Apple
didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.)
Such data collection and user policies pose “a significant risk to children’s health and safety,” Mithal said. He pointed to three criminal cases where the authorities said the apps enabled men to allegedly reach out to minors. One case includes a rape charge.
The apps were removed on May 2, Yatsenko said. All FTC requirements and recommendations have now been met and he hopes the apps will be back Apple and Google Play, he said. (Users must tell sites like Tinder, Bumble and Match
they are at least 18.)
Over 50% of people in a 2013 Pew Research Center study said their dates had “seriously misrepresented” themselves; about a quarter of those poll participants said they were contacted by someone through a site and felt harassed or uncomfortable.
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