Broken Thumbs Pays $50K To Settle COPPA Charges

Emily

The parent company of mobile app developer Broken Thumbs and majority owner Justin Maples have agreed to pay $50,000 to settle allegations that the company violated a federal law by collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.

Broken Thumbs' parent, W3 Innovations, and Maples also agree to destroy information it collected from children and to refrain from gathering data from children without their parents' permission in the future.

Broken Thumbs offers around 40 iPhone and iPod apps, including ones aimed at children like Emily's Girl World and Emily Dress-up, according to the FTC's complaint, which was made public on Monday.

The company's apps also offer to access blogs, where children can "ask Emily's advice, share embarrassing 'blush' stories, submit art and pet photographs, and send in inspirational quotes," the FTC alleges.

By collecting data from app downloaders, as well as users who make blog submissions, Broken Thumbs amassed more than 30,000 email addresses, the FTC alleges.

The FTC said in its complaint that the company's data collection violated the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits Web site operators from collecting personal information from children younger than 13 without their parents' consent.

The case marks the first time the FTC has brought an action against a mobile app developer for allegedly violating COPPA, which was enacted in 1998. The agency last issued regulations for the statute in 2000, well before smartphones became commonplace. The FTC is currently considering how the law should apply to new platforms.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who recently urged the FTC's consumer protection chief to update the rules, praised news of the enforcement action against Broken Thumbs. "The FTC's enforcement action sets a legal precedent that mobile applications targeting children must abide by the protections established by the law," he stated.

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