Ios 14 Hero App LibrarySource: Rene Ritchie / iMore

What you need to know

  • Apple is being questioned in the UK over the age rating of apps.
  • Specifically, the UK's information commissioner wants to know about the risk of processing personal data.

The UK's information commissioner has written to both Apple and Google about the age ratings given to apps regarding concerns about the risk of processing personal data.

Elizabeth Denham published a letter in response to 5Rights Foundation and a letter sent by its chair, Baroness Kidron. Denham writes:

In relation to specific concerns you raised about age ratings published by online app stores, we have contacted Apple and Google to enquire about the extent to which the risks associated with the processing of personal data are a factor when determining the age rating for an app.

It comes following the concerns raised by 5Rights, which noted in its original letter:

Many services with age restrictions are advertised on the Apple App and Google Play stores as child-friendly, suitable for users of any age or ages younger than those specified in the service's published terms. The app stores also allow accounts registered as children to download age-restricted apps with little or no friction

The letter also highlighted concerns about data transparency:

Many products and services allow users to register or sign in via existing accounts they have with other providers, such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Snapchat or TikTok. Some providers make it difficult or even impossible to register or log in via other means. It is often unclear what information is shared between the service and the third party log in/authentication provider

Apple's App Store gives developers a choice of ratings, +4, +9, +12, and +17, and developers must fill out an Age Rating Declaration before sending an app to Apple for review. Apple also offers parental controls through iOS on devices like iPhone and iPadOS on iPad, which can ensure children listed as below certain age ratings are prevented from downloading age-inappropriate apps without permission, or at all as the case may be.