Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, one of the agency’s most vocal privacy advocates, is leaving the commission at the end of the month.
She will go to the law firm Hogan Lovells, where she will serve as co-director of the privacy and cybersecurity practice.
Today’s huge news that the FTC has settled COPPA violation cases with two small app developers with civil penalties totaling $360,000 came as quite a surprise. Since it has been nearly two and a half years since the updated COPPA became law, many had written off the FTC ever enforcing COPPA.
The EU thinks it can out-guess tweens and teens. US Congress thinks it can out-guess tweens and teens. The FTC used to think it could out-guess tweens. But anyone whom has ever taught young people, raised a young person or interacted with a young person knows they are wrong. No one can out-guess a tween or teen, except another tween or teen.
The fact that the FTC is making a show of enforcing COPPA is notable because it’s over a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of reminder that your games should be COPPA-compliant if there’s a chance they could collect personal information about a player under the age of 13, or be used to do so.
Some operators of websites and online services directed at children would do well to learn a lesson that youngsters often know: ask permission before using something that’s not yours.Read more >
As a parent, you have control over the personal information companies collect online from your kids under 13. This includes your child’s name, address, phone number, email address, and information the companies can use to track your child’s online activities. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives you tools to do that. If a site or service is covered by COPPA, it has to get your permission before collecting personal information from your child and it has to honor your choices about how that information is used.
Companies’ Apps Shared Kids’ Information with Ad Networks; Will Pay $360K In Civil Penalties
Two app developers will pay a combined $360,000 in civil penalties as part of settlements with the Federal Trade Commission over charges they violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, Rule.
“It’s vital that companies understand the rules of the road when it comes to handling children’s personal information online,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “These cases make it clear that we’re closely watching this space to ensure children’s privacy online is being protected.”
These cases are the first in which the FTC alleged that companies allowed advertisers to use persistent identifiers to serve advertising to children. Persistent identifiers – pieces of data that are tied to a particular user or device – were among the categories added to the COPPA Rule’s definition of personal information when it was updated in 2013.
In its complaint against LAI Systems, LLC, the FTC alleged that the company created a number of apps directed to children, including My Cake Shop, My Pizza Shop, Hair Salon Makeover, Friday Night Makeover, Marley the Talking Dog and Animal Sounds. According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendant allowed third-party advertisers to collect personal information from children in the form of persistent identifiers. Defendant failed to inform the ad networks that the apps were directed to children and did not provide notice or get consent from children’s parents for collecting and using the information.
The settlement with LAI Systems prohibits the company from further violations of the COPPA Rule, and requires the company to pay a $60,000 civil penalty.
In its complaint against Retro Dreamer, and its principals, Craig E. Sharpe and Gavin S. Bowman, the FTC alleged that the company created a number of apps targeted to children, including Ice Cream Jump, Happy Pudding Jump, Ice Cream Drop, Sneezies, Wash the Dishes, Cat Basket and Tappy Pop.
The defendants in this case, according to the complaint, allowed third-party advertisers to collect children’s personal information through the apps. One advertising network over the course of 2013 and 2014 specifically warned the defendants about the obligations of the revised COPPA Rule, and also told the defendants that certain of their apps appeared to be targeted to children under the age of 13.
The settlement with Retro Dreamer, Sharpe and Bowman prohibits the defendants from further violations of the COPPA Rule, and requires the defendants to pay a $300,000 civil penalty.
The Commission votes to authorize the staff to refer the complaints to the Department of Justice, and to approve the proposed stipulated civil penalty orders, were 4-0. The DOJ filed the complaints and proposed stipulated orders on behalf of the Commission in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Dec. 17, 2015.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed by the District Court judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
A hacker broke into the servers of toymaker VTech last month, compromising the personal information of millions of children and adults. While the consequences of the hack are still unclear, police now have a suspect. Authorities have arrested a 21-year-old man in the UK on suspicion of crimes related to unauthorized access to a computer, reports the BBC. “We are still at the early stages of the investigation and there is still much work to be done,” said officials in a statement.
Whisper started out as an anonymous, photo-based app where users could post text messages superimposed over images, typically secrets or confessions. Whisper has location functionality, but unlike Yik Yak, location is not necessarily a key feature. Earlier this year, Whisper rolled out a “Schools” feature that makes each user’s location more critical, especially for some young users.
Read more: @ ThirdParent A Look at the Whisper App’s Unsafe “Schools” Feature | ThirdParent
Parents may appreciate that — just like the Nabi DreamTab — the Elev-8 was built with COPPA rules in mind. Obeying the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act means that the Elev-8 does not collect data from children under age 13, and that none of their child’s data is shared with third parties.