Site Targeting "Tweenagers" Misses the Mark: FTC Announces Settlement of Alleged COPPA Violations

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The Federal Trade Commission recently announced its settlement with the operator of www.skidekids.com concerning allegations that the operator violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (“COPPA Rule”) by collecting personal information about children without obtaining parental consent. Skid-e-kids, a social networking site directed at children ages 7-14, allows children to do many of the things (e.g., share pictures and video) that adults do on Facebook and other popular social networking sites. In fact, according to the FTC, Skid-e-kids advertises itself as the “Facebook and Myspace for kids.”

To get online at www.skidekids.com, users must provide personal information such as their name, email address, date of birth and city. The site’s published privacy policy purported to require that child users provide a parent’s valid email address in order to activate their account and to facilitate communications between Skid-e-kids and parents concerning the site and their child’s account. But according to the FTC the site operator never collected any parent’s email address and failed to obtain verifiable parental consent to collect personal information from children under 13. In doing so, the FTC said, the site operator violated both the FTC Act (by misrepresenting its privacy practices in the privacy policy) and the COPPA Rule (by improperly collecting children’s personal information).

For Skid-e-kids, the FTC’s settlement means taking remedial measures such as destroying all of the information collected from children in violation of the COPPA Rule, providing links to online educational material, and retaining an online privacy professional or joining an approved COPPA safe harbor program to oversee applicable COPPA-covered websites; an injunction against future violations of COPPA and misrepresentations about the collection of children’s information; and a $100,000 civil penalty (all but $1,000 of which may be suspended if the operator demonstrates an inability to pay).

For the rest of us, the settlement is a good reminder that the FTC is staunchly committed to protecting children’s privacy. So when it comes to collecting personal information from children online, it’s important to do it right . . . or not at all.

 


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.

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