The Federal Trade Commission just sent a strong message to app developers hoping to cull personal information from minors. Yesterday the organization ordered W3 Innovations, an iOS app developer, to pay $50,000 in fines for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), CNET reports. The developer allegedly violated COPPA regulations that prohibit the collection of underage app users' e-mail addresses.
W3 Innovations sells a variety of applications—including Emily's Dress Up, Emily's Girl World, and Emily's Runway High Fashion—under the moniker Broken Thumb Apps. According to the FTC, the apps have been downloaded more than 50,000 times. The app developer allegedly collected thousands of e-mail addresses from kids who posted on Emily's Blog, a site related to the apps.
It's not just the collection of children's e-mail addresses that has W3 Innovations in hot water; under COPPA regulations, app developers must require parental consent before allowing children to provide personal information to a website or application. The app Emily's Dress Up, in particular, requires children to submit their e-mail address in order to access the app's features. Another twist: according to COPPA, online companies cannot collect any personal information from users younger than 13. W3 Innovations has reportedly already paid the $50,000 fine to avoid a lawsuit, and we expect tweaks to the app's information collecting system will follow shortly.