Ten consumer organizations, including the Center for science in the Public Interest and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, have filed a Request for Investigation with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that Topps Co., maker of Ring Pops, violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by encouraging children younger than age 13 to post photos of themselves wearing the candy to social media.
Topps apparently introduced the campaign, #RockThatRock, as a collabora- tion with “tween band” R5 to feature photos of Ring Pop wearers in the band’s music video. Consumers could enter the contest by posting a photo to social media and appending the name of the campaign. The consumer groups allege that Topps aimed the contest at youth through its child-focused website, Candymania, and that the contest violated COPPA rules by collecting personal information—which, by statutory definition, includes photo- graphs—from a child without giving notice and obtaining advance parental consent.
“This is a textbook study of how online marketers are so eager to use Face- book and other social media to promote their products to friends and even strangers, they ignore this key law designed to protect consumer privacy online. Companies such as Topps need to carefully review all their digital marketing practices to make sure they are adhering to COPPA, and also are marketing their products in a responsible manner,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “The FTC must do more, however, to ensure that COPPA is effectively enforced. It must devote more resources to protect the privacy of children, and begin examining contemporary digital data-driven practices more thoroughly.” See CDD Press Release, December 9, 2014.