Alleging violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the Attorney General of New Jersey and the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs filed suit against 24x7digital, a mobile app developer.
California-based 24x7 developed a line of “Teach Me” apps targeted to kindergartners and children in first and second grade that were intended to help them learn the alphabet, colors, and counting. Children are encouraged to create “profiles” using their last name, first name, and a picture, and the defendants advertise the apps as “child friendly” and easy enough for “children to play without help from an adult.”
COPPA mandates that companies notify consumers and receive parental consent prior to the collection and transmission to third parties of the personal information of children under the age of 13. According to the state’s complaint, 24x7 failed to gain consent before compiling the names and unique device identifiers from its underage users and sharing this information with a third-party data analytics company.
The suit seeks to enjoin any future data collection in violation of COPPA, and an order requiring the company to destroy any data collected to date in violation of the Act.
To read the complaint in Chiesa v. 24x7digital, click here.
Why it matters: The lawsuit follows a report from the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year highlighting the privacy concerns associated with mobile apps geared toward children, as well as the agency’s first action against a children’s mobile app developer. That suit settled last year for $50,000. New Jersey’s Attorney General, Jeffrey S. Chiesa, noted that the case against 24x7 is the state’s first filed pursuant to COPPA – but not its last. “Mobile devices can capture and transmit a wealth of personal information about users, including their identities and even their geographic location. When we find that companies are using this ability to transmit information about children without their parents’ knowledge or consent, we will take immediate action,” Chiesa said in a press release about the suit. “Due to the broad capabilities of these devices and the potential for abuse, we are proactively investigating mobile apps to ensure their compliance with privacy and consumer protection laws.” Given the action on both the federal and state levels, developers of children’s apps should ensure their compliance with COPPA or face the potential of regulatory scrutiny.