Apple and Google Remove 3 Dating Apps After FTC Warns They Endanger Children

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Early in May, Apple and Google removed three dating apps from their stores after the FTC declared them a danger to children. By Friday May 10th, the updated apps were available again in Google Play, but not in the Apple Store.

According to The Hill, the FTC issued a consumer advisory for dating apps, and named three apps specifically - Meet24, FastMeet, and Meet4U – because they put children at risk of exposure to potential predators. Children under 13 years of age were able to sign up for these apps and communicate with other users, including adults, a violation of a law that requires parental consent before collecting information on underage people.

"Adults -- including sexual predators -- can search by age and location to identify children nearby," the FTC warned.

The FTC went on to say: "despite a statement in each app's Privacy Policy that users under 13 years of age are not allowed to use the apps, users who indicate they are under 13 are not prevented from accessing and using the apps or being visible to other users."

In reviewing the apps, the FTC did find that there were children younger than 13 using the app who could be exploited by adult users. The app captured sensitive personal information, like location, birthdates, email addresses, and photographs.

The FTC also noted that "several individuals in the United States have faced criminal charges for communicating or attempting to communicate with minors via Wildec's apps."

As of Friday however, Wildec LLC (which owns all three apps), had apparently addressed the FTC’s concerns and resubmitted new versions of the apps with new restrictions that comply with the FTC’s warning, according to an article in Forbes. The updated apps are available on Google Play. Apple however has not made the apps available in its store yet.

Wildec LLC is a Ukrainian company that operates all three apps, according to The Hill. The company was notified by the FTC about the risk to underage consumers on May 1st, and had been working quickly to address concerns. The apps make up a large portion of Wildec’s business, according to Forbes.

"We immediately reacted on FTC requirements and fixed all the issues, including removing all data from under age accounts," a spokesman for Wildec said, adding that "registration is not possible anymore" for underage users.

According to CNN, regulators in the UK have also cracked down on apps that exploit children or put them at risk. The UK government said in April that an independent regulator would be created to enforce rules concerning the removal of content that incites violence or constitutes cyberbullying. Content related to child exploitation would face even stricter standards than deletion.