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FTC settles complaint over violation of child privacy laws

App unlawfully retrieved information from children under 13

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached its first settlement agreement last week with the maker of a smartphone app the commission claims violated child privacy laws. The FTC had filed a complaint against mobile app-maker W3 Innovations (also known as Broken Thumbs Apps) after one of the company’s popular iPod/iPhone apps, “Emily,” retrieved email addresses from children under 13 years old—a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

“Emily,” which allowed children to play games and create dress-up outfits, had been downloaded more than 50,000 times. To comment in the app, children were required to use their personal email addresses. As a result, W3 unlawfully maintained thousands of email addresses of underage users, the FTC said in its complaint.

“The FTC’s COPPA rule requires parental notice and consent before collecting children’s personal information online, whether through a website or a mobile app,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. “Companies must give parents the opportunity to make smart choices when it comes to their children’s sharing of information on smartphones.”

W3 will be fined $50,000. The FTC says it will continue to get more involved in monitoring the legality of companies’ actions through their use of apps. 

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Cathleen Flahardy

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