Karaoke App Violated Children's Privacy Rules, Watchdog Says

The StarMaker app, which allows users to create videos of themselves performing karaoke, ran afoul of children's privacy rules, according to the industry self-regulatory group Children's Advertising Review Unit.

CARU, administered by the Better Business Bureau, says the app allows young children to disclose their names and publicly post photos of themselves without parental consent. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act prohibits app developers from knowingly collecting personally identifiable information from children younger than 13 without their parents' permission.

The StarMaker app works in conjunction with the "Selfie-Mic" -- a selfie stick with a microphone attached. Users perform karaoke by plugging the stick into a smartphone and then sing into a microphone. Users who download the app are able to make and edit videos of themselves -- along with their names and photos -- while they sing.

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While CARU was investigating, StarMaker implemented an age-gate to block children under 13 from the app. But children's privacy rules don't allow companies to simply block children from using apps that are aimed at a "mixed audience" of young children and teens. In this case, CARU determined that the app was aimed at that type of mixed audience.

"The visual content of the app appeals to children under 13 because its content features a large audience of teens and their peers performing their favorite songs," CARU wrote in an opinion unveiled Monday. "As it is typical for children to model up their behaviors, an app that features teens would naturally attract a large number of children, especially tweens."

The watchdog recommended that the app developer either direct children to content that doesn't involve the collection or use of personally identifiable information, or obtain parental permission before collecting data from children 12 and younger.

The developer said it had "started efforts to incorporate changes" to the app, according to the opinion.

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