Did someone in your house get an upgrade to the new gaming system this holiday season? Chances are the answer is yes. But before you sell or give away your old gaming console, you need to consider all of the personal information that’s stored on it.
Think about it – your gaming console allows you to share personal photos, videos and you’ve most likely entered credit card information for downloading games. Upon set-up of the system, you may have entered your child’s name, address and other personal information which is also stored on the hard drive even after you wipe it clean.
Trade it in at GameStop or sell it on EBay and the next owner may be able to access this information. If you believed as I did that restoring the console to its original settings would protect us, a blog posting about some researchers that were able to uncover credit card information as well as the previous owner’s history in the Live marketplace, despite the console having been returned to the original settings is definitely troubling. Fortunately this blog also provides some solutions.
Gaming consoles aren’t the only way people are gathering information on your kids. While you might think that the apps your kids are downloading are harmless enough, many are collecting information including phone number, age, gender and even location.
A recent Wall St. Journal investigative series looked into over 101 popular apps to see what data was collected. Two of my kids’ personal favorites, Angry Birds and Talking Tom Cat both collect password, location and phone ID.
Unfortunately, there’s not an easy solution to the mobile app challenge. It’s impossible for anyone to tell what information is being gathered by a particular app. Both Apple and Android app stores provide various controls allowing parents to restrict which apps may be downloaded onto their children’s mobile devices, based on app content ratings.
iPhones, iTouches and iPads also have controls that allow parents to password-protect access to a number of specific applications, such as Apple’s Internet browser (Safari), the online video website YouTube, the iTunes App Store itself, the device’s camera application, as well as some device capabilities, such as location sharing and in-app purchase mechanisms.
Although the Android operating system does not have such built-in parental controls, a number of available apps allow parents to password-protect access to various content and devices.
You can also block the GPS location sharing and also set the device on “airplane mode” to prevent interactive features but that’s only going to work for younger kids as older ones will turn that off the minute you’re not watching. And, while this offers some protection, it still doesn’t allow parents to understand what information’s being gathered.
The bottom line is choosing between letting your child use an app and recognizing the security risks or preventing it completely. Only when app developers start coming clean on what information they’re gathering and making it clear to parents will this situation be fixed.