A social-networking service for children will delete information collected from pre-teens in order to settle charges that it violated a federal privacy law. The company also agreed to a civil penalty of $100,000, but the fine will be suspended except for $1,000.
The deal resolves a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Skidekids.com and its operator, Jones Godwin, unlawfully collected names, birth dates, email addresses and other personal information from at least 5,600 pre-teens since October 2009. The site says in its terms of service that children must provide their parents' email addresses before registering, but doesn't enforce this condition, according to the FTC.
“Defendant requires children to register in order to use his website,” the FTC alleges in the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. “The child is not asked to provide a parent's email address, and defendant makes no attempt to notify a child's parent or obtain parental consent.”
Skid-e-Kids, which calls itself Facebook and MySpace for children ages 7 to 14, also promised to refrain from collecting personal information from children without their parents' consent in the future.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act bans companies from collecting personal information -- defined as data that can be used to contact children -- from users 12 and younger without their parents' consent. The FTC recently proposed updating the COPPA regulations by banning companies from using “anonymous” to track children without their parents' consent.
This case isn't the only recent COPPA enforcement action brought by the FTC. In August, the parent company of mobile app developer Broken Thumbs and majority owner Justin Maples agreed to pay $50,000 to settle similar charges.
News of the Skidekids.com settlement drew praise from Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) who sponsored COPPA. “I am pleased that the Commission pursued and brought charges against a social networking website that was collecting personal information about children under 13 without parental permission,” he stated. “Since COPPA was signed into law in 1998, children increasingly use the Internet to connect with each other and with entertainment and educational opportunities that did not exist when the law was enacted.”
Markey and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) recently proposed expanding COPPA to ban the behavioral targeting of any minors under age 18.