Websites, apps, games and other online services that interact with kids online are covered by COPPA. The regulation requires sites to have proper privacy policies, provide parents with direct notice of their information practices, and get verifiable consent from a parent or guardian before collecting personal information from a child.
Below is a timeline of COPPA violations, and a brief overview of important details that got companies into trouble. Check out our quick tips on how to comply with COPPA, or contact us for more information on getting your organization in compliance.
COPPA was implemented to protect children online, and fines for failing to comply with the law were recently increased to up to $43,280 per privacy violation per child.
Miniclip falsely claimed from 2015 through mid-2019 that it was a member of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit’s (CARU) COPPA safe harbor program even though Miniclip’s membership had been terminated in 2015. Under the FTC’s COPPA Rule, companies are deemed in compliance with COPPA if they are a member and adhere to the guidelines of an FTC-approved COPPA safe harbor program.
The Washington AG alleged that We Heart It, which has approximately 500,000 monthly active U.S. users, allowed children under the age of 13 to create accounts, collected U13 users’ personal information, and allowed third-party advertisers to collect data from U13 users, all without obtaining COPPA-compliant verifiable parental consent.
The app developer violated COPPA by allowing third-party ad networks to collect personal information in the form of persistent identifiers to track users of the company’s child-directed apps, without notifying parents or obtaining verifiable parental consent.
HyperBeard has an array of children's apps including Axolochi, BunnyBuns, Chichens, Claberta, Clawbert, KleptoCats, KleptoCats 2, KleptoDogs, MonkeyNauts, and NomNoms.
The apps—MobileSpy, PhoneSheriff and TeenShield—referred to as "stalking apps", allowed purchasers to monitor the mobile devices on which they were installed, without the knowledge or permission of the device’s user.
Retina-X violated the COPPA by failing to take reasonable measures to secure the personal information it collected from children.
Google LLC and its subsidiary YouTube, LLC will pay a record $170 million to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York Attorney General that the YouTube video sharing service illegally collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent.
The settlement requires Google and YouTube to pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York for allegedly violating the COPPA.
More information read the press release by clicking here.
Musical.ly, now known as TikTok, has agreed to pay $5.7 million to settle FTC allegations that the company illegally collected personal information from children. The operators knew many children were using the app but they still failed to seek parental consent before collecting names, email addresses, and other personal information from users under the age of 13,
At the time, it was the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Commission in a children’s privacy case.
TechCrunch’s Verizon-owned parent, Oath, an ad tech division made from the merging of AOL and Yahoo, has agreed to pay $4.95 Million – and adopt comprehensive reforms to protect children from improper tracking. The company conducted billions of auctions for targeted ads on hundreds of children’s websites in violation of COPPA.
View the NY Attorney General Press Release by clicking here.
i-Dressup collected and retained personal information from children without parental consent. In addition to violating COPPA’s parental consent provisions, i-Dressup violated COPPA’s data security requirements.
The company was found collecting information from children without parents permission through connected toys violating children's privacy.
Along with collecting names, contact information and age, the company also asked users for their mailing address, weight, “body type,” and measurements for waist, hips, bust, shirt, etc. In addition, they urged users to upload a photo because “agents & casting directors choose only serious candidates with pictures. All of this was done without collecting parent permission.
Operation Child Tracker was a two-year investigation by the NY Attorney General’s office, discovered that websites operated by Mattel, Viacom, Hasbro and Jumpstart were home to tracking technology that illegally enabled third-party vendors, such as marketers or advertising companies, to track children’s online activity in violation of COPPA.
The FTC charged the company for deceptively tracking the locations of hundreds of millions of consumers – including children – without their knowledge or consent to serve them geo-targeted advertising.
The lawsuit also alleged that Yelp didn’t adequately test its apps to ensure that users under the age of 13 were prohibited from registering
Tiny Co runs many games and applications including Tiny Pets, Tiny Zoo, Tiny Village, Tiny Monsters and more. In exchange for in-app currency to buy game enhancements, TinyCo encouraged kids to turn over their email addresses, but the company didn't get parental permission as required by COPPA.
Iconix required consumers on many of its brand-specific Web sites to provide personal information, such as full name, e-mail address, zip code, and in some cases mailing address, gender, and phone number – as well as date of birth – in order to receive brand updates, enter sweepstakes contests, and participate in interactive brand-awareness campaigns and other Web site features.
The Commission’s complaint alleges that, through its music fan Web sites, Sony Music improperly collected, maintained and disclosed personal information from thousands of children under the age of 13, without their parents’ consent.
The web site in the violation was advertised as a “free, secure, social networking and blogging destination specifically designed for kids ages 8 to 14.” however collected and maintained personal information from children under the age of 13 without first notifying parents and obtaining their consent.
Xanga is a social networking site that collected, used and disclosed information from children under 13. This is the first million-dollar penalty since COPPA was enacted.
The Bonzi Software case is the first COPPA case to challenge the information collection practices of an online service in connection with a software product
Hershey operates more than 30 Web sites - many of which are candy-related sites directed to children. On a number of these sites, the company allegedly employed a method of obtaining parental consent that does not meet the standard delineated under the COPPA Rule.
UMG Recordings operates hundreds of general audience Web sites that advertise and promote its music and artists, many of whom are popular with children.
UMG gained actual knowledge that a child was registering on the site whenever a child entered a birth date indicating he was under the age of 13. Yet, UMG collected this personal information from children without first notifying parents and obtaining verifiable parental consent.
Portions' of Mrs. Fields web sites were directed to children. The company allegedly collected personal information from more than 84,000 children, without first obtaining parental consent.
The Ohio Art Company was found collecting personal information from children registering for "Etchy's Birthday Club." The site collected the names, mailing addresses, e-mail addresses, age, and date of birth from children who wanted to qualify to win an Etch-A-Sketch toy on their birthday without parent permission
The company’s website featured a “Kids Club" section that features games, crafts, contests, and jokes directed to children under the age of 13. The company collected personal information without parent consent.
The Lisa Frank website was directed towards children and asked girls to register before they accessed many areas of the site, including the "club" and "shop" areas. The site asked girls for their first and last names, street addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and birth dates, as well as their favorite color and season without parent permission.
The companies are required to comply with COPPA in connection with any future online collection of personally identifying information from children under 13. The settlement also requires the operators to delete all personally identifying information collected from children online at any time since the Rule's effective date. These cases mark the first civil penalty cases the FTC has brought under the COPPA Rule.
Since COPPA came into force, fines for violating children's privacy online have become greater and greater. However, paying the fine is just the start of the process to repair brand damage. It takes years to build a positive brand relationship and just seconds for parents around the world to see your organization as unsafe for their children.
Understanding COPPA is complex to navigate. Each violation highlights a key lesson. Here are some important points from the list of violations above:
To get a better understanding of COPPA, view our COPPA Resource or "What is COPPA?" blog. If you are bringing children into your website, app, or game, there's a good chance COPPA applies to your organization.
Complying with COPPA not only protects your organization from legal trouble, but shows that you are willing to go the extra mile to keep kids safe online. Learn more about the COPPA Regulation or our COPPA Safe Harbor Certification, and see how we can help your organization safely engage with children and their families online.