FTC Cracks Down On Apps Collecting Children's Data

W3 Innovations, the parent company of prominent iOS app developer Broken Thumb Apps, has today settled with the Federal Trade Commission over collection of children's personal data through its iPhone and iPod Touch applications.

W3 and its subsidiary Broken Thumb Apps, which is responsible for games like Emily's Dress Up, Truth or Dare, and Zombie Duck Hunt, had allegedly "collected, maintained, and/or disclosed personal information" entered into its various child-targeted applications, according to the FTC. The complaint claims that the company collected and maintained a list of more than 30,000 e-mails, as well as personal information from more than 300 Emily's Girl World users and 290 Emily's Dress Up users.

The FTC says the apps were clearly marketed towards children and that the company has seen more than 50,000 app downloads since it first began offering games on iOS devices. Because these apps collect information such as the user's names and comments, the FTC claims that they are 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 is allowed to collect or use the personal information of children. In this case, the FTC argues that parents were unaware of what details the applications were collecting from their children and that the details were being used for marketing purposes.

W3 immediately agreed to settle the case, resulting in a $50,000 fine. The company has also agreed to delete all collected information that was in violation of the FTC's COPPA Rule, and that it won't violate the Rule in the future.

This case marks the first time that the FTC has gone after mobile applications for violations of this kind, but it surely will not be the last: there are already talks in Congress about overhauling COPPA to cover more modern types of information, like GPS data, and to prevent deceptive in-app purchases on mobile devices.