This week the Federal Trade Commission released a report, based on a review of 400 apps for kids, stating that it would begin non-public investigations of the privacy practices of mobile apps aimed at children for possible violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). COPPA requires children’s website operators to get parental permission before collecting certain personal information, including phone numbers and addresses, from pre-teen users. In conducting its review, regulators found that many apps collect this information and more without providing information to parents about what data is collected, how it is used, and who can access the information.
On the heels of this report, a mobile app aimed at children has gone offline. The maker of “Mobbles” took the app offline after the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint against it at the FTC. The complaint alleges that the maker of Mobbles has violated the COPPA because it does not post its privacy notice adequately and collects information about children without obtaining parental consent.
The FTC’s report suggests more stringent enforcement of COPPA and Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive trade practices. In addition, regulators at the FTC are preparing to update and strengthen regulations aimed at protecting children’s online privacy. The FTC’s recent report on kids’ apps underscores the importance of marketers of apps aimed at children and their contracting partners to evaluate their privacy practices and ensure compliance with the COPPA. Regulators are encouraging privacy by design, parental choice about the collection and sharing of data about their children, and transparency about how kids’ apps collect, use and share information with third parties.
For more information about how recent activity addressing mobile apps aimed at children could affect your business or partnerships, please contact the attorney responsible for your account.