Knowing When The Rules Have Been Broken
It’s not just parents who are taking a role in protecting kids’ privacy online, the government has its hands in it as well. Back in 2000, the Federal Trade Commission put into effect the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The COPPA rule aims to protect the privacy of children by making sure websites (and now apps) request parental consent for the collection or use of any personal information for those under the age of 13.
Even though the COPPA rule has been in effect for quite awhile, that doesn’t always mean everyone abides by it. Case in point, it was announced this week that an app maker who created programs developed for children agreed to a $50,000 settlement imposed by the FTC for allegedly collecting and maintaining thousands of email addresses from users under the age of 13. Additionally, kids were wrongfully allowed to post personal information to the Internet on message boards without parents being notified or providing consent in advance.
According to the agency, email addresses were collected and maintained from kid-focused apps developed by W3 Innovations, LLC (doing business as Broken Thumbs Apps) and made available for download through Apple’s App Store including Emily’s Girl World, Emily’s Dress-Up and Emily’s Runway High Fashion. There have been more than 50,000 downloads of these apps. In addition to imposing the $50,000 penalty, the settlement will bar the defendants from future violations of the COPPA Rule and require them to delete all personal information collected in violation of the Rule.
This violation serves as a good reminder for parents to understand the rules websites and apps should not only be implementing in good conscious to protect children’s identity on the Internet, but also are required to abide by and ultimately enforced by the COPPA rule and the Federal Trade Commission. Violations of the COPPA rule can be reported directly to the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/. The FTC also has resources to help kids understand how to safely navigate life online at the FTC's microsite - Living Life Online.
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