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Print 26 comment(s) - last by KoolAidMan1.. on Jan 19 at 8:49 PM

Apple is letting customers know about a 15-minute password-free window so parents can keep a close eye on their kids while using Apple devices

A lengthy letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook to employees revealed that the company settled with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over in-app purchases made by youngsters

Apple will reportedly refund $32.5 million USD total to customers affected by the 15-minute window for in-app purchases made by their children. 

As long as a parent types in their iTunes password, there's a 15-minute window where as many purchases can be made until that time is up without needing the password to be typed in again. This was meant to make things easier on users who don't want to type in a password each time they buy an app, but children were using this to their advantage and buying up tons of apps without their parents knowing (until the bill came, of course). 

The FTC got involved in the issue, and the settlement pushed Apple to email 28,000 customers and refund 37,000 claims regarding the in-app purchases. Apple is letting customers know about the 15-minute window so parents can keep a close eye on their kids while using Apple devices. 

Back in February 2011, Rep. Edward J. Markey (Mass.) along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) submitted letters to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz asking for thorough inspection of free children's games by companies such as Pocket Gems and Capcom Interactive.  
 
Apple iPhone games such as Tap Zoo by Pocket Gems and the Smurfs' Village by Capcom Interactive have been labeled as free children's games, but what parents may not know upon choosing these apps is that items within the games, such as barrels of Smurfberries in the Smurfs' Village game, can cost up to $99 if a child selects them. The end result is bill shock when the charges arrive.  

While these purchases cannot be made without a password, parents argue that it has become too easy for children to figure it out and that safeguards are not strong enough to stop them from purchasing the items found in these games. 

Here's the full letter from Cook to Apple employees: 

Team,

I want to let you know that Apple has entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. We have been negotiating with the FTC for several months over disclosures about the in-app purchase feature of the App Store, because younger customers have sometimes been able to make purchases without their parents’ consent. I know this announcement will come as a surprise to many of you since Apple has led the industry by making the App Store a safe place for customers of all ages.

From the very beginning, protecting children has been a top priority for the App Store team and everyone at Apple. The store is thoughtfully curated, and we hold app developers to Apple’s own high standards of security, privacy, usefulness and decency, among others. The parental controls in iOS are strong, intuitive and customizable, and we’ve continued to add ways for parents to protect their children. These controls go far beyond the features of other mobile device and OS makers, most of whom don’t even review the apps they sell to children.

When we introduced in-app purchases in 2009, we proactively offered parents a way to disable the function with a single switch. When in-app purchases were enabled and a password was entered to download an app, the App Store allowed purchases for 15 minutes without requiring a password. The 15-minute window had been there since the launch of the App Store in 2008 and was aimed at making the App Store easy to use, but some younger customers discovered that it also allowed them to make in-app purchases without a parent’s approval.
We heard from some customers with children that it was too easy to make in-app purchases, so we moved quickly to make improvements. We even created additional steps in the purchasing process, because these steps are so helpful to parents.

Last year, we set out to refund any in-app purchase which may have been made without a parent’s permission. We wanted to reach every customer who might have been affected, so we sent emails to 28 million App Store customers – anyone who had made an in-app purchase in a game designed for kids. When some emails bounced, we mailed the parents postcards. In all, we received 37,000 claims and we will be reimbursing each one as promised.

A federal judge agreed with our actions as a full settlement and we felt we had made things right for everyone. Then, the FTC got involved and we faced the prospect of a second lawsuit over the very same issue.

It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy. However, the consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren’t already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.

The App Store is one of Apple’s most important innovations, and it’s wildly popular with our customers around the world because they know they can trust Apple. You and your coworkers have helped Apple earn that trust, which we value and respect above all else.

Apple is a company full of disruptive ideas and innovative people, who are also committed to upholding the highest moral, legal and ethical standards in everything we do. As I’ve said before, we believe technology can serve humankind’s deepest values and highest aspirations. As Apple continues to grow, there will inevitably be scrutiny and criticism along our journey. We don’t shy away from these kinds of questions, because we are confident in the integrity of our company and our coworkers.

Thank you for the hard work you do to delight our customers, and for showing them at every turn that Apple is worthy of their trust.

Tim

Source: 9 to 5 Mac





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Really..
By Xplorer4x4 on 1/15/2014 5:09:49 PM , Rating: 1
Don't you love how Tim Cook couldn't even get through the letter with out taking shots at, namely Google/Android? I found it to be rather distasteful.




RE: Really..
By troysavary on 1/15/2014 5:46:59 PM , Rating: 2
Where s Google or Android even mentioned in the letter?


RE: Really..
By Wazza1234 on 1/16/2014 5:19:17 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
These controls go far beyond the features of other mobile device and OS makers, most of whom don’t even review the apps they sell to children.


RE: Really..
By troysavary on 1/16/2014 8:41:43 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, missed that.


RE: Really..
By Tony Swash on 1/16/2014 11:01:43 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
quote:
These controls go far beyond the features of other mobile device and OS makers, most of whom don’t even review the apps they sell to children.


Which is of course true.


RE: Really..
By ritualm on 1/16/2014 2:47:55 PM , Rating: 1
Apple doesn't even check apps in their store for malware until someone calls them out for it.

More like their throwing rocks at glass houses.


RE: Really..
By KoolAidMan1 on 1/18/2014 6:32:23 PM , Rating: 2
Total FUD and BS.

.7% of malware is on iOS while 80% of malware is on Android, literally 100x more. This is the direct result of Apple vetting apps for malware. The most surefire way of getting rejected on the app store is malware.


RE: Really..
By Reclaimer77 on 1/19/2014 9:37:32 AM , Rating: 2
You are speaking FUD. That malware isn't coming from the Play store. So it doesn't matter if Google vets apps, which they do of course.


RE: Really..
By KoolAidMan1 on 1/19/2014 8:49:53 PM , Rating: 3
Play isn't the only way to install applications, which is why Android leads in malware.

ritualm talked about Apple not checking apps for malware, which is total nonsense. Checking apps for malware is one of the main reasons iOS accounts for less than a percent of mobile malware despite leading in app usage. It's also why that .7% of mobile malware on iOS are almost all on jailbroken devices running sideloaded apps.

Related to the story, Google Play also has a 30-minute window for in-app purchases, twice as long as the app store. FTC wants money even after Apple already paid out customers. Same thing you see in Europe with excessive fines.


RE: Really..
By sprockkets on 1/16/2014 5:56:23 PM , Rating: 2
Isn't that the parents job?

Oh wait, that would be too difficult. I forgot, apple users live in Disneyworld.


RE: Really..
By TheDoc9 on 1/16/2014 4:23:52 PM , Rating: 2
The entire letter comes off as smug. I stopped reading it after the second paragraph.


RE: Really..
By unimatrix725 on 1/19/2014 2:03:56 PM , Rating: 2
True I wouldnt expect less from the old troll. I am Pro "Apple Desktop", but Pro "Android Mobile".

What shocks me is that the dumbass people using an iOS device have never heard of prepaid cards? Hell anyone can get one, Walmart even sells them by the gobs! Get a BlueBird card setup a subaccount and the child can have their own card. Parents can then load an allowance. Perhaps if they were not so cheap with the 0$ contract device they could buy the kid one of their own, even an iPod costs way less. Not sure how iOS profiles work personally. I know allot of people who wont use iTunes Store or th like because of the credit card requirement.

Last but not least Apple knew what they were doing. They know the user base is more or less computer illiterate. There should be no reason to require a card until really needed. That way parents can dispense "ass bustin" when kids snatch the card!


IAP's not handled by App store?
By kamiller422 on 1/15/2014 3:23:36 PM , Rating: 2
I have not used Apple's app store, but I know Android IAP's are handled by Google Play. Google Play lets you force entering account password to confirm purchase. This doesn't exist in Apple store?




By amanojaku on 1/15/2014 3:28:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
As long as a parent types in their iTunes password, there's a 15-minute window where as many purchases can be made until that time is up without needing the password to be typed in again. This was meant to make things easier on users who don't want to type in a password each time they buy an app, but children were using this to their advantage and buying up tons of apps without their parents knowing (until the bill came, of course).


RE: IAP's not handled by App store?
By Nortel on 1/15/2014 3:32:58 PM , Rating: 1
In the App store you can either enter in your iTunes password or use fingerprint authentication.

The issue discussed in this article surrounds the '15 minute cooldown timer'. Once a password/fingerprint is entered, the user can purchase anything for 15 minutes without being prompted for authentication again.

This is especially useful when you wish to purchase '10 out of 12 songs' on an album. Authenticate once and tap around to purchase everything you wanted.

Parents were authenticating without realizing this grace period existed. Their own fault or Apples for not broadcasting the warning, your call.


RE: IAP's not handled by App store?
By ven1ger on 1/15/2014 4:41:38 PM , Rating: 2
While it is convenient to allow multiple purchases without having to enter the password every time in a few minutes, it would have been wiser to have a setting where the default is to always ask for a password, and then the user would have to set the 15-minute window, unless Apple already has such a feature. That way no excuses for the parent not knowing otherwise this probably falls in Apple's lap.

Kids today are extremely tech savvy, more so than many of the parents who don't quite grasp all the nuances of tech. Even my 10 year old daughter has to show my wife how to use her smartphone.


RE: IAP's not handled by App store?
By fic2 on 1/15/2014 7:02:07 PM , Rating: 2
You would think that Apple would have a settable bar or UI element when you enter your password you could set the timer from 0 to 30 minutes (or whatever).

I have had at least one friend burned by this and his 4 yo daughter bought a couple of apps during the window.

I hope the same thing comes up with Amazon. I own a Kindle and had to delete my Amazon password so my daughter can't buy videos. Deleted one-click purchases. Still could buy videos without a password. Set parental controls - then I couldn't even watch my own Prime videos.
I would NOT recommend getting a Kindle if you have kids.


RE: IAP's not handled by App store?
By amanojaku on 1/15/2014 8:44:38 PM , Rating: 1
Apple has never been a company to offer options, and it's proven it doesn't know squat about security. This is one reason why Apple has never had a corporate presence outside of fanboys. "Detailed security policies? Pfft! Think different!" The worst part about this is that after the lawsuit, iTunes still works the same way! Someone should have said "You know, all these kids buying things in-game without parents' permission... Maybe we should provide a setting to stop that?"


By Wazza1234 on 1/16/2014 5:18:05 AM , Rating: 2
You can disable the 15 minute window under 'Settings'.


By KoolAidMan1 on 1/18/2014 6:35:37 PM , Rating: 2
Google Play gives a 30 minute window for in-app purchases, twice as long as the app store.

http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2014/01/17/apple-googl...

quote:
On Google Play, it turns out, that window of unsupervised in-app purchasing is twice as long -- a full 30 minutes -- with no dollar limit and no on-screen parental warning. As Consumer Reports' headline put it "Google Play Store lets your kid spend like a drunken sailor."


By troysavary on 1/17/2014 6:00:17 AM , Rating: 2
If she is still buying videos after you have made attempts to stop her, and after, I assume, you told her to stop, then how is it Amazon's fault that she is still disobeying you?


By Tony Swash on 1/16/2014 11:16:12 AM , Rating: 1
Apple had already last year sent emails to 28 million App Store customers, anyone who had made an in-app purchase in a game designed for kid, offering to refund any in-app purchase which may have been made without a parent's permission. When some emails bounced, they mailed the parents postcards.

A federal judge had signed off on this settlement and Apple had begun mailing out reimbursement checks when the FTC, under newly-appointed Chairwoman Ramirez, decided to get involved. Tim Cook says this "smacked of double jeopardy" but he says he decided to sign rather than fight because, as he put it, "the consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren't already going to do."

By an interesting coincidence the terms of the consent agreement, Apple must pay out "a minimum" of $32.5 million, or roughly $880 for each of Apple's complainants. Any money that's not spent, which could, in theory, be millions of dollars goes to the FTC .

So the FTC through a simple but quick footed manoeuvre managed to get headlines that paint the government as protectors of parents and children in the digital age, a story in which the FTC gets to play the giant killer, and a novel way to extract millions out of Apple's coffers and maybe send some of it directly to the FTC’, without actually adding anything to due process or the settlement of the issue at hand

The FTC’s dubious manoeuvre led to a pointed dissent filed by commissioner Joshua Wright, a former George Mason professor of law. In it, Wright takes issue with the premise of the case, arguing that the FTC had never before charged a company with "unfair acts or practices" for this kind of marketing behavior.

quote:
The test the Commission uses to evaluate whether an unfair act or practice is unfair used to be different," he writes. "[Those] cases invariably involve conduct where the defendant has intentionally obscured the fact that consumers would be billed. Many of these cases involve unauthorized billing or cramming – the outright fraudulent use of payment information. Other cases involve conduct just shy of complete fraud – the consumer may have agreed to one transaction but the defendant charges the consumer for additional, improperly disclosed items.


Furthermore, he writes, rather than a substantial victory,

quote:
this is a case involving a miniscule percentage of consumers – the parents of children who made purchases ostensibly without their authorization or knowledge... The injury in this case is limited to an extremely small – and arguably, diminishing – subset of consumers.




By Tony Swash on 1/16/2014 2:20:47 PM , Rating: 2
Here is the link to the entire dissenting opinion of Joshua Wright

http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/c...


By sprockkets on 1/16/2014 5:59:48 PM , Rating: 2
Awww sht, and if it weren't for you, big bad apple's reputation would be tarnished.

I mean, with their useless ios6 maps debut, their iphone4 antennagate, their ebook debacle of which they still won't admit wrongdoing, how can they manage?

I mean, sht.


By troysavary on 1/17/2014 6:03:38 AM , Rating: 1
I'm surprised this isn't at -1 already. You cannot post any defence of Apple, even when valid, without a downvote, usually. I'm no Apple fan, I don't get the appeal of most of their products, but Apple is not the bad guy here.


Spoiled brats
By augiem on 1/15/2014 3:53:42 PM , Rating: 4
Kids shouldn't be playing with $800 toys anyway. Gawdang whippersnappers! ... *wheeze*




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