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.
On September 16, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced that mobile app developers Yelp and TinyCo each settled cases with the FTC on COPPA 2.0 non-compliance issues. Both companies’ apps collected personally identifiable information from children under 13 without seeking advance permission from the parents of the children.
Others who know much more about government affairs than me have told me this timetable is pretty normal. It’s important to remember that the public doesn’t hear about FTC activities until they are completed.
Content, Commerce, and Privacy. I’ve touched on these three regulatory issues we face in the mobile game market in this blog before. It’s a confusing space because all three of the “live rails” (as I call them) inter-relate. Last week the blogosphere was filled with Google’s settlement with the FTC regarding in app purchases (IAP) that were made by children without their parents’ approval. According to the FTC, Google is well aware of the problem and refers to it as “Friendly Fraud” or “Family Fraud”.
Let’s take stock of what the FTC has done about kids and IAP and how the various platforms have responded.