CLIFFVIEW PILOT SCOOP: New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the state Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit in federal court in Newark to stop an educational mobile app developer from collecting personal information from children, then passing on the information to marketers without telling parents.
The lawsuit — the first lawsuit filed by the state under the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) — names 24x7digital, LLC, the Los Angeles-based developer and operator of the “TeachMe” series of 99-cent apps for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
“We appreciate the educational component of these apps,” state DCA Acting Director Eric T. Kanefsky said, “but under no circumstances is it acceptable to transmit identifying information about toddlers or first- and second-graders without the informed consent of their parents.”
“TeachMe: Kindergarten” is currently Apple’s 12th most popular education app, Kanefsky said.
Its “TeachMe: 1st Grade,” is ranked 21st on Apple’s App Store website. “TeachMe: 2nd Grade” is 25th, and “TeachMe: Toddler” is 32nd.
Besides math and spelling programs, the series features a virtual aquarium, sticker sheets, and “silly stretchable shapes.”
Investigators found that 27×7 has passed on information — including first and last names and photos — of children to a third-party data analytics company “without providing notifications of this policy on its website and without obtaining consent from the young players’ parents,” a clear violation of COPPA, Kanefsky and Chiesa said.
COPPA mandates that parental consent be obtained before a company can collect personal information from a child under the age of 13.
Congress enacted the measure in 1998 in response to concerns that commercial websites were collecting and disseminating children’s personal information without notification or consent. Lawmakers were also concerned over a growing number of companies using the information to target children and their families, target them for commercial prodicts.
At the time, roughly 3 million children younger than 18 were using the Internet. That number has since soared to 61.7 million.
A Federal Trade Commission report released in February, “Mobile Apps for Kids: Current Privacy Disclosures are Disappointing,” describes how Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems for mobile devices include powerful capabilities to monitor the behavior and location of their young users.
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