FTC Fines First Mobile App Developer for COPPA Violation

by Proskauer - Privacy & Data Security
Contact

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that mobile application developer W3 Innovations, LLC (d/b/a Broken Thumbs Apps), has agreed to pay a fine of $50,000 in order to settle charges that it collected and disclosed personal information from children under the age of 13 without first notifying parents of information-collection policies or obtaining verifiable parental consent, in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC’s COPPA Rule (16 C.F.R. Part 312). This was the first FTC case involving mobile applications, commonly known as "Apps."

COPPA prohibits the unauthorized collection of personal information from children by operators of websites or online services. In particular, the FTC’s COPPA Rule requires parental notice and consent prior to the collection, use or disclosure of personal information of children under the age of 13. In addition, the COPPA Rule requires website operators to post a privacy policy which provides clear, understandable and complete notice of its information collection practices. COPPA applies to online services that are either directed to children under 13 years old, or that knowingly collect personal information from children under 13.

The FTC’s complaint alleged that several of the apps offered for download from Apple, Inc.’s App Store by Broken Thumbs, and its president and owner, Justin Maples, were directed at children under the age of 13. The complaint further alleged that Broken Thumbs collected personal information from children through the online operation of these apps. Among the apps mentioned in the complaint were Emily’s Girl World, Emily’s Dress Up, Emily’s Dress Up & Shop, and Emily’s Runway High Fashion. According to the FTC release, "the Emily apps encouraged children to email 'Emily' their comments and submit blogs to 'Emily's Blog' via email, such as 'shout-outs' to friends and requests for advice." The complaint alleged that Broken Thumbs had collected over 30,000 email addresses and had “collected, maintained and/or disclosed personal information from over 300 Emily’s Girl World app users and approximately 290 Emily’s Dress Up app users who have registered to submit comments.” 

 

While the FTC had already publically indicated its view that COPPA applies to mobile services, not just Web sites, this is the first enforcement action by the FTC to illustrate that interpretation.  The FTC noted that the Broken Thumbs apps “send and receive information over the Internet, and thus are online services directed to children pursuant to COPPA."

 

As part of the settlement, Broken Thumbs has also agreed to not violate COPPA in the future and to delete all personal information obtained in violation of COPPA.

 

The challenge presented by COPPA and other privacy laws for App developers is to effectively communicate privacy policies on the small screen and through the download interfaces provided by Apple, Android and other platforms. This challenge may account for the fact that, according to some accounts, almost three quarters of the most popular mobile Apps do not have a privacy policy at all. But the FTC has made clear, through this action and in other public statements, that regardless of the limitations of a small screen, App developers must find ways to comply with the notice and choice rights afforded to consumers under COPPA and other applicable privacy laws.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Proskauer - Privacy & Data Security | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Proskauer - Privacy & Data Security
Contact
more
less

Proskauer - Privacy & Data Security on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!