FTC on Friday, August 11, 2011, has filed a lawsuit against W3 Innovations, the parent company of Broken Thumbs Apps, for collecting the personal information of children in their apps.
In its complaint, the FTC alleges that W3 "collected, maintained, and/or disclosed personal information" entered into its various kid-targeted apps--for example, 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 App users and 290 Emily's Dress Up users.
What kind of information could the company have on kids? After all, it's usually the parents who buy and download the apps. According to the complaint, some of W3's apps ask the kids to enter names before beginning the game. In the case of Emily's Girl World, they are given the opportunity to leave comments on a blog related to the app, details of which are saved to W3's archives.
Broken Thumbs Apps have been downloaded more than 50,000 times in the iTunes App Store, and titles include Zombie Duck Hunt, Truth or Dare, and Emily's Dress Up. Monday, the company settled with the FTC for $50,000.
In the complaint, FTC says since these apps were directly marketed to children and transmitted information over the internet, the apps are in violation of the Children's Online privacy Protection Pact (COPPA), and the FTC's COPPA rules. Besides settling, the company agreed to delete all of the children's personal information off of their servers.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who has been working to prevent deceptive in-app purchases on mobile devices, agreed with Markey. "This settlement is an important victory for online and mobile privacy. Mobile apps can be great tools for kids to learn and have fun, but parents should never have to worry that their child's personal information is being collected or violated. I will continue to make sure we have clear rules of the road that allow consumers to have more control over their online and mobile information," she said in a statement.
Here is the full FTC complaint: