FTC: Yelp To Pay $450,000 For Collecting Personal Information From Children

With each new settlement the Federal Trade Commission announces, it appears more likely that mobile apps and children just don’t go together. In the most recent case, Yelp settled allegations that it improperly collected children’s’ personal information – a big no-no that means the online review site will pay hundred of thousands of dollars to rectify.

The FTC announced that Yelp agreed to pay a $450,000 civil penalty to settle charges it violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires that any company collecting personal information from children must get express consent from parents and clearly disclose how the information is used.

According to the complaint, from 2009 to 2013 Yelp was not in compliance with the rules set forth by COPPA. Instead, the company allegedly collected the personal information from children through its app without first notifying parents and obtaining consent.

Because the Yelp mobile app registration process includes a step in which users must enter their date of birth, the FTC charges that the company was aware of the issue.

An investigation found that several thousand registrants provided a date of birth showing they were under 13 years of age and Yelp continued to collect information such as their names, email addresses, location and subsequent reviews.

Although Yelp has an age-screen mechanism on its website, by allowing young users to register on the mobile device, they were able to access the web version as well.

The FTC found the company failed to implement a functional age-screen in its app and did not adequately test said apps for issues.

Under the settlement, Yelp must pay the $450,000 civil fine and must delete information it collected from consumers who stated they were 13 years of age or younger. Additionally, the company must submit COPPA compliance reports to the FTC for one year.

In another, related enforcement action, the FTC announced a settlement in which mobile app company TinyCo will pay a $300,000 civil penalty for violating the COPPA Rule.

The FTC alleges that through the use of themes appealing to children, brightly colored animated characters and simple language, TinyCo targeted consumers under the age of 13 and in some instances collected personal information from those children.

According to the complaint, some of the company’s apps included measures where the submission of an email address would provide extra in-game currency that could be used to buy items within the game or speed up gameplay.

In addition to paying a civil fine TinyCo is required to delete information collected from children under 13 years of age and must submit a compliance report to the FTC.

Yelp, TinyCo Settle FTC Charges Their Apps Improperly Collected Children’s Personal Information [FTC]

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