New Jersey sues app developer for violating COPPA – huge news. The lawsuit is hardly a surprise in some respects, however. App developers have long disregarded COPPA when developing apps. One might guess most developers don’t even know the law exists.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act [“COPPA”] requires businesses to follow strict information practices when collecting personal information from anyone under 13 years of age. The restrictions range from requiring verified parental consent to collecting only a minimum of information from kids under 13 on a site.
However, there is a problem with COPPA. Well, not so much with the law. The FTC is the problem. Congress authorized the agency to enforce COPPA in the United States; an obligation the FTC has shirked. While there are tens of thousands of apps and websites that violate COPPA available to the public, the FTC usually only pursues a few cases a year. And those cases are slam dunks. Fortunately, the attorney general offices of man states are starting to pick up the slack.
In the current case, the New Jersey AG is alleging that 24x7digital failed to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from children under 13 on an app known as “Teach Me.” The Attorney General is asserting the company sold or shared the information with third-party advertisers. All of this would violate COPPA.
The thing that makes this case so interesting is the application to apps. A large number of apps on the market target kids under 13. If this lawsuit is successful, the app industry is in for a significant wake-up call.
The interesting thing will be to see how the app makers go about creating a process for getting consent from parents to allow their kids to get the apps. The FTC is currently revising its rule on how to comply with COPPA, so this should make things all the more confusing moving forward. Perhaps there will be an app for that!
Nonetheless, the breaking news that New Jersey sues app developer for violating COPPA should not be dismissed out of turn. It is great news in the fight for children’s privacy online.
Richard A. Chapo, Esq.
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