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Apps that inappropriately advertise to kids

| July 16, 2020 1:00 AM

There are dozens of apps out there that are very enticing to children. Many of these app developers know how to get kids hooked on their games and are touting their games as being educational in nature even if their real motivation is to manipulate children with deceptive ads they are forced to watch by not allowing them to skip through the ad.

While that may not seem too bad, parents should be aware that gaming apps are getting better at using facial recognition technology to determine who is playing a game or watching the app at any given moment in time and then targeting that person with ads.

Here is an example from a concerned parent. The mom let her 7-year-old daughter play an app on her tablet. During the daughter’s play time an ad popped up that she wasn’t able to skip through. The second time the daughter saw the ad she showed it to her mother.

The ad was described as having inappropriate sexual content. The mother took the tablet away from her daughter until she could show the ad to her husband. But when the parents played the app they weren’t able to get this particular ad to pop up. The mom is an educator so her ads were geared toward educational material and she was able to skip through her ads and not watch them while the child was forced to watch the entire commercial. The father was also unsuccessful at getting the ad to pop up.

So they let their daughter play the app the next morning and within five minutes the ad popped up leading them to conclude the app could somehow determine who was playing the game likely through facial recognition. This has left parents in a catch-22 because they realize that restricting their children’s access to technology could be detrimental to their learning but exposing young minds to content that indoctrinates them into learning a belief system that is inconsistent with the values of the parents is also a problem.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been regulating TV ads targeting kids since the ’70s and now the FTC has guidelines for children’s advertising for digital companies. However, as the World Wide Web continues to evolve it may be hard for the FTC to actually enforce restrictions on giant gaming companies.

Update on the Census

A few concerned readers have been contacted by a representative claiming to be from the Census Bureau and they are wondering if these contacts are legitimate. First according to the website, Idaho is one of the states conducting phone interviews only. Unless that changes the Census Bureau staff should not be coming to your home directly.

You can also check out the status of the Census and information concerning the Census at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/surveyhelp/verify-a-survey.html#verify. Another option if someone contacts you is to contact the Los Angeles Regional Census Center at 213-314-6500. The regional staff can help you verify the identity of local Census takers if you are in doubt. You will need to provide the name of the Census taker so the staff can look them up for you.

Keep in mind that the Census Bureau will never ask for your Social Security number, your bank account or credit card information, anything on behalf of a political party or money/donations. And the Census will not send unsolicited emails to request your participation in the 2020 Census.

Fake delivery text messages

It’s a good bet that many of us are ordering more items online than we did before the pandemic. Scammers are counting on this fact as well and have been targeting readers with bogus text messages.

I received a text message that started off “Hi, is this Terri? I tried to arrange the delivery for you but you were not home. Please go to this link to verify …” There wasn’t a company name so I don’t know what company was supposed to have sent me this message.

I wasn’t expecting an order at this time so I knew the text message was a phishing scam designed to pique my curiosity to get me to click on the link. I have had companies send me a text message that my items have been shipped but I haven’t had a legitimate company ask me to click on a link to verify my information.

As a reminder don’t click on unsolicited links. It is likely the link could install malware on your phone or device in order to steal your private information.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.