Mobile app developers take note – federal COPPA crackdown coming

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Mobile app developers will feel the heat from the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) crackdown on children's data collection that violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), according to Jules Polonetsky, executive director of the privacy think tank Future of Privacy Forum.

"The smaller mobile players have their heads in the sand, and mobile app developers are the most vulnerable. What [the FTC] have told us is that mobile apps and kids are a major focus" of their COPPA enforcement, Polonetsky tells VentureBeat.

Polonetsky adds, "If you're tracking kids across sites, like data analytics and ad network companies, for example, you are collecting personal information on children--and you're doing it without parental consent."

The FTC signaled earlier this year that it would begin cracking down on tech companies that violate COPPA, VentureBeat reports. Passed in 1998, COPPA requires that websites and online service operators that collect personal information from children under 13 give notice to parents and get their explicit consent before collecting, using or disclosing that personal information.

After implementing an overhaul of the COPPA rules in 2013, the FTC gave certain firms a grace period to comply with COPPA in the mobile space, VentureBeat explains.

The overhaul broadened the definition of children's personal information to include "persistent identifiers such as cookies that track a child's activity online, as well as geolocation information, photos, videos and audio recordings," according to the FTC.

On its websites, the FTC says that civil penalties for COPPA can reach $16,000 per violation. "The amount of civil penalties a court assesses may turn on a number of factors, including the egregiousness of the violations, whether the operator has previously violated the Rule, the number of children involved, the amount and type of personal information collected, how the information was used, whether it was shared with third parties, and the size of the company," the FTC explains.

The VentureBeat report notes that mobile ad marketers, ad retargeters and mobile app developers that collect or sell children's personal information in violation of COPPA could face fines for each app download or login. The FTC is not commenting on whether any enforcement investigations or actions are under way.

For more:
- read the VentureBeat article
- check out the FTC COPPA site

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