iOS Developer Pays $50k FTC Fine

August 15, 2011 -

The iOS app maker responsible for games such as Zombie Duck Hunt, Truth or Dare, and Emily's Dress Up today settled with the Federal Trade Commission for collecting children's personal data in its iPhone and iPod touch apps. Broken Thumbs Apps and its parent company W3 Innovations were targeted by an FTC lawsuit on Friday. Today the company announced a settlement.

The FTC alleged in its complaint that W3 "collected, maintained, and/or disclosed personal information" entered into its kid apps such as emails and other private information. This included a list of more than 30,000 e-mails as well as personal information from more than 300 Emily's Girl World App users and 290 Emily's Dress Up users. Some of W3's apps asked children to enter names before beginning the game or leave comments on a blog related to the app, details of which are saved to W3's archives.

The FTC further alleges that these apps were clearly marketed to children and that the company has seen more than 50,000 app downloads since it first began offering games on the iPhone and iPod touch. Because these apps send and receive information via the Internet, the FTC said that they were in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC's COPPA Rule, which requires parents to give consent before the company collects or uses the personal information of children. With W3/Broken Thumbs, parents were not aware that their kids' details were being collected and used for marketing purposes.

The company quickly acquiesced to the complaint and has paid a $50,000 fine. It also agreed to delete all personal information that was collected in violation of the COPPA Rules and claims that it won't make any future Rule violations.

US Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) applauded the FTC's decision to pursue W3:

"Since COPPA was signed into law in 1998, children increasingly connect to the Internet on the go, using an array of mobile apps and new services that did not exist when the law was enacted," Markey said in a statement. "Earlier this year, I introduced the ‘Do Not Track Kids Act’ with Congressman Joe Barton to bring COPPA up to date and add additional safeguards for teens. I look forward to working with my colleagues to move forward our bipartisan bill so that we can provide strong protections for children and teens, enabling them to learn, communicate and enjoy entertainment in a safe online environment."

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), agreed with Markey:

"This settlement is an important victory for online and mobile privacy. Mobile apps can be great tools for kids to learn and have fun, but parents should never have to worry that their child’s personal information is being collected or violated. I will continue to make sure we have clear rules of the road that allow consumers to have more control over their online and mobile information," she said in a statement.

Source: Ars Technica

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