Besides the new name, version 1.2 of Where in the World is Santa Claus? has some privacy improvements as well. You may be surprised that privacy would be a concern for a simple kid’s app like this. The app does not ask for your name, phone number, address, or any other personal information. But to function properly, the app does need one important piece of information: your location.
Location: The Old Approach
The app needs your location to find the direction to Santa Claus from… well, your location. Until version 1.2, the app asked your iPhone to determine your location — only a rough location, within a few kilometers. And the app would only get your location if you approved. Once approved, the app never stored, transmitted, or otherwise used your location beyond pointing you towards Santa Claus at that moment.
But on careful reading of the latest child privacy regulations such as COPPA, it seemed that your location was now protected and could only be obtained in certain cases. Even though the app was probably fine in version 1.1, we temporarily pulled the app from sale until we could make sure it complied with the privacy regulations. Getting the proper parental permission was going to be impractical (at least for a $0.99 app) so we had to solve this conundrum:
How could the app get your location without getting your location?
The New Way
The app is back in the App Store with these changes for version 1.2:
- The app no longer asks your iPhone for your actual location, not even a rough a location.
- The app asks you to type in a very general location such as your city, state, postal code, or country.
- If you do not want to provide any location information at all, the app uses a default location in downtown Austin, Texas.
- The app also has new safeguards in place to prevent children from accessing the info screen, which contains links to the web.
Now the app requires a little more setup since it cannot detect your location automatically. And the distance and direction data is not going to be as accurate as before. But we think the app is still fun for young kids to use, and they will hopefully not notice any difference once your location is set. Versions prior to 1.2 are no longer available for download.