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Nickelodeon Target of Privacy Complaint; Final COPPA Amendments to be Released Tomorrow

Written by Amy Malone

The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) filed a complaint yesterday asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  to investigate violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by Nickelodeon and mobile app-maker PlayFirst.

The CDD alleges that the mobile game SpongeBob Diner Dash collects personal information about children, including full names, e-mail addresses and online identifiers, without obtaining parental consent, as required under COPPA.

The online identifiers collected by the app, such as unique device identifiers and device tokens, allow the app to track the behavior of the child and send push notifications to them.  These types of online identifiers are considered personal information under COPPA.

This is the second complaint the CDD has filed with the FTC concerning COPPA violations in the last two weeks.  The previous CDD complaint asked the FTC to investigate the Mobbles app for gathering and sharing the precise location of children without obtaining parental consent.  Both apps were quickly ripped from the app store following the complaints.

In a letter accompanying its new complaint the CDD states that SpongeBob Diner Dash and Mobbles are representative of the widespread disregard of COPPA requirements.  Earlier this month the FTC reported that of the 400 children’s apps that it surveyed 59% shared geolocation, device ID or phone numbers with developers or third parties, but 80%  failed to disclose any information about their privacy practices, including whether parental consent was required.

Proposed amendments to COPPA have been the subject of much discussion and comment over the past year.  According to a release from the Federal Trade Commission today, the final amendments are scheduled to be released tomorrow in a press conference at noon.   The press conference can be viewed live via webcast at the US Senate Commerce Committee website.

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Cynthia J. Larose

Member / Chair, Privacy & Cybersecurity Practice

Cynthia J. Larose is Chair of the firm's Privacy & Cybersecurity Practice, a Certified Information Privacy Professional-US (CIPP-US), and a Certified Information Privacy Professional-Europe (CIPP-E). She works with clients in various industries to develop comprehensive information security programs on the front end, and provides timely counsel when it becomes necessary to respond to a data breach.