TickTalk Smartwatch Wrongly Collected Children's Data, Watchdog Says

TickTalk, a smartwatch designed for children as young as five, collected data about its users without first obtaining valid parental consent, an ad industry self-regulatory group said this week.

“TickTalk’s website and privacy policy do not effectively provide notice to parents about TickTalk’s collection, use, and disclosure practices regarding children’s personal information,” the BBB National Programs Children's Advertising Review Unit said this week. “Moreover, the website does not provide a means for parents to affirmatively consent to TickTalk’s information practices prior to collecting children’s personal information.”

TickTalk markets itself as a smartphone and watch for children between the ages of five and 12.

The company requires parents to register for an account on the TickTalk app, which involves providing information about themselves as well as their child. But TickTalk failed to adequately explain its data policies to parents, according to the Children's Advertising Review Unit.

“Although TickTalk provided parents with considerable information about the service’s features, it failed to provide clear and complete, and non-confusing, notice of its children’s information collection practices in its privacy policy,” the organization wrote.

The watchdog pointed to several alleged deficiencies in the privacy notices available to parents. Among other issues, TickTalk's privacy policy characterizes device identifiers as “non-personal information” -- although device identifiers and other pseudonymous information are treated as “personal information” for purposes of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. That law prohibits online companies from collecting data from children under 13 without parental consent.

The privacy policy also gives TickTalk the right to share device identifiers with “any number of parties, including analytics companies, technology providers and other business partners,” according to the watchdog.

The self-regulatory group added that the privacy policy also doesn't clearly specify what personal information is collected from children or how the data is used or disclosed.

The organization said TickTalk developed a “detailed plan to remedy the concerns raised in the decision,” and expects to be “fully” compliant with the children's privacy law within 60 days.

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