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Monthly Archives: April 2018

By Lesley Fair

Remember that public service announcement: “It’s 8:00. Do you know where your children are?” Technology has given parents tools for answering that question. But under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, online services touted as ways to keep kids connected need to comply with key parental notice and consent provisions of COPPA – especially when they’re collecting children’s geolocation. That’s the message of two warning letters just sent by FTC staff.

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The staff of the Federal Trade Commission sent letters to two foreign companies that market electronic devices and apps that appear to collect geolocation data from children, warning that the companies may be in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.

The letters were sent to China-based Gator Group Co., Ltd., and Sweden-based Tinitell, Inc., which both provide online services. Gator Group advertises an app and a device called the Kids GPS Gator Watch, which it markets as a “child’s first cell phone.” Tinitell has also marketed an app that works with a mobile phone worn like a watch, which is also designed for children. Although Tinitell has stopped selling the devices, they will continue to operate through September 2018. Copies of the letters were also sent to the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, which make the apps available to consumers in their stores.

The FTC’s COPPA Rule requires companies collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 to post clear privacy policies and to notify parents and get their consent before collecting, using or sharing personal information from a child.

In its letters to the two companies, the FTC noted that even though they are based outside the United States, foreign companies are required to comply with COPPA when their services are directed to children in the United States or they knowingly collect information from U.S.-based children.

The online services offered by both companies appear to be directed to children and to collect precise geolocation information from children. The letters note that a review of both companies’ services reveal that they do not appear to provide direct notice of their collection practices and do not seek verifiable parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information as required by COPPA.

The letters encourage the companies to review their online services, policies and procedures to ensure they are in compliance with COPPA.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on proposals to modify a video game industry self-regulatory program that the FTC approved in 2001 under the agency’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.

The changes are being sought by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and would modify the organization’s COPPA safe harbor program, which is aimed at ensuring compliance with FTC regulations and guidance related to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The FTC’s COPPA Rule requires, among other things, that operators of commercial websites and online services directed to children under the age of 13, or general audience websites and online services that knowingly collect personal information from children under 13, must post comprehensive privacy policies on their sites, notify parents about their information practices, and obtain parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing any personal information from children under the age of 13.

The FTC’s COPPA Rule includes a “safe harbor” provision designed to encourage increased industry self-regulation in this area. Under this provision, industry groups and others may ask the Commission to approve self-regulatory guidelines that implement the protections of the Rule. Companies that comply with the FTC-approved guidelines receive safe harbor from agency enforcement action under the Rule.

In a notice to be published in the Federal Register shortly, the FTC is seeking comment on modifications proposed by ESRB to its COPPA safe harbor program. Among the proposed modifications, ESRB seeks to amend the definition of “personal information and data” to track the additional COPPA Rule guidance the FTC released in October 2017 related to audio recordings. Other proposed modifications include the elimination of a requirement that new participants in ESRB’s safe harbor program complete an initial self-assessment questionnaire before joining.

Those seeking to comment should follow the directions in the Federal Register notice and will have 30 days to comment until May 9, 2018.

NOTE: Publication of this Federal Register notice does not indicate Commission approval of the proposed modifications to ESRB’s safe harbor program.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.


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