Mobile application developer Dokogeo Inc. recently settled a complaint by the New Jersey attorney general’s office that the company’s “Dokobots” smartphone app violates the federal Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. The NJ AG alleged that the app is directed at both children and adults, by featuring animated cartoons and a child-themed storyline. As a result, the NJ AG found the app collects “personal” information (including email addresses, photographs, and geolocation information) from users under the age of 13 without obtaining verifiable parental consent in advance, thus violating COPPA. The NJ AG also found that the app did not provide a neutral screen registration process to restrict the age of users to those over 13. Moreover, according to the consent agreement, the Dokobots app privacy policy also failed to disclose that the app is restricted to users over the age of 13, and the company did not link to their privacy policy on their home page. As part of the settlement, Dokogeo has agreed to improve its privacy disclosures by specifying the type of information collected through its apps and on its websites, and detailing how that information is used and shared. The company has already removed photographs and files containing children’s images and geolocation data from its web site, and further agreed to stop collecting personal information from users under 13. The AG levied a $25,000 fine, which remains suspended as long as the company fully complies with the conditions of the settlement, and will be fully vacated after 10 years if the company avoids consumer fraud complaints or violations of child online privacy laws.

Tip: As we noted last year in a similar New Jersey regulatory settlement, companies should keep in mind that both the FTC and individual state regulators can bring actions for COPPA violations. This case is a further reminder that regulators will look not only at websites, but also at child-directed apps to ensure that they comply with COPPA.