On November 22, 2013, New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General announced that the State had entered into a settlement agreement with Dokogeo, Inc. (“Dokogeo”), a California-based company that makes mobile device applications, regarding allegations that one of the company’s mobile apps violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (“COPPA”), the recently amended Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (the “Rule”) and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

The settlement agreement relates to an investigation opened by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Office of Consumer Protection (the “Division”) regarding Dokogeo’s animation-based “Dokobots” mobile app. The Division alleged that (1) the use of animated cartoon characters and a child-themed storyline indicates that the Dokobots app is meant for kids, not just adults; (2) the app collects information from children, such as addresses, photographs and geolocation information, that is considered “personal information” under the COPPA Rule; and (3) Dokogeo did not obtain verifiable parental consent prior to the collection of personal information from children in connection with its Dokobots app. According to the settlement agreement, the Dokobots app “did not provide any neutral screen registration process to restrict the age of its users to those over the age of 13.” The Division further alleged that Dokogeo does not include a link to its privacy policy on the company’s homepage “rendering it difficult for users to find information about Dokogeo’s data collection practices.”

As part of the settlement agreement, Dokogeo is required to “clearly and conspicuously disclose in its apps and homepages of its websites” information about the types of personal information collected, how the information is used, and whether the information is disclosed to third parties. In addition, Dokogeo cannot sell its apps to children under the age of 13 without first complying with applicable COPPA Rule requirements, including by using commercially-available tools or software to verify that individuals using the apps are over the age of 13. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, Dokogeo agreed to a payment of $25,000, but the payment will be suspended and vacated after ten years if Dokogeo complies with all of the settlement terms and does not engage in any acts or practices that violate COPPA or the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

This is the second recent COPPA-related settlement entered into by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office. On June 27, 2012, the Acting Attorney General announced that 24x7digital LLC, another California-based app developer, had agreed to stop collecting and transmitting children’s personal information without notifying parents and obtaining parental consent, and to ensure the destruction of the information it had previously collected and transmitted to third parties.