What's the cost of violating a bunch of kids' privacy? Probably less than you'd expect.
It's never a good thing when the Federal Trade Commission here in the United States decides to take a good, long look at you and your product. This is a lesson that App developer Broken Thumbs has just learned, as it has been slapped with a substantial fine by the FTC for violating - wait for it - child privacy laws. Oops.
The company that created the popular Emily's Girl World series (the screenshot here is from Emily's Fashion & Shop) has settled with the FTC for the sum of $50,000 after it collected "tens of thousands" of email addresses from kids younger than thirteen without informing their parents.
Chairman Jon Leibovitz of the FTC explained why this is a problem:
"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. Companies must give parents the opportunity to make smart choices when it comes to their children's sharing of information on smartphones."
Apparently Broken Thumbs also allowed underage users to share "personal information" on message boards, which also violates the COPPA Rule. According to the FTC, Broken Thumbs is going to delete all this personal data and "will not be allowed to violate the rule again," though specifics are a little fuzzy about what'll happen to them if they do.
Honestly, this figure seems pretty low, especially when one stops and thinks about how much money Broken Thumbs has probably made off of its illicit activities.