The Federal Trade Commission levied a $50,000 fine against W3 Innovations for violating the laws protecting children’s privacy, in what was the first-ever FTC case involving mobile apps.

Central to the ruling were games aimed at children under its Broken Thumbs Apps name, including Emily’s Girl World, Emily’s Dress Up (pictured) and Emily’s Runway High Fashion. Players were encouraged to send in blog posts from their personal email address and, in these three apps, to email “Emily” directly. Additionally, the FTC contended that children were invited to publicly post their personal information on message boards along with things like photos of their pets, tales of their most embarrassing moments, and requests for advice.

Collecting personal information from children under 13 years old violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) unless parental consent is granted in advance.

“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,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “Companies must give parents the opportunity to make smart choices when it comes to their children’s sharing of information on smart phones.”
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) issued a statement in support of the FTC’s action and nudging it to clarify how the regulations apply to mobile and emerging platforms. “Congress passed COPPA over a decade ago precisely to prohibit the type of information collection practices in which W3 was engaged,” he said. “And while I am pleased with the FTC’s recent action, I also believe it is crucial that the FTC completes its revision of the COPPA Rule to account for changing technology and give consumers the regulatory protections they need for the future.”

Related Links:

MediaPost –

Hilicon Valley –