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TinyCo fined $300,000 over children's privacy

FTC issues heavy penalty to mobile developer

The Federal Trade Commission has handed out a heavy fine to mobile developer TinyCo after it deemed the company to have broken laws regarding child privacy in its games.

The legislation in question is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, specifically the sections on the collection of data from under 13 year olds without a parent's consent. The FTC found that TinyCo's games were offering the exchange of virtual currency for details such as a child's email address, court documents explain. For that transgression, the FTC has levied a fine of $300,000. In addition to the fine, the company must delete all personal data pertaining to under 13s from its database.

"Companies should take steps as they build and test their apps to make sure that children's information won't be collected without a parent's consent," said Jessica Rich of the FTC.

Tiny Pets, Tiny Zoo, Tiny Village, Tiny Monsters and Mermaid Resort are all named in the FTC filing, which states that all are clearly marketed for children. The report also accuses TinyCo of ignoring complaints from parents of under 13s regarding the collection of private information. The filing specifies:

"In numerous instances, in connection with the acts and practices described above, TinyCo collected and used personal information online from children younger than age 13 in violation of the Rule by: a. Failing to provide notice on its website or online services of the information it collects online from children, how it uses such information, and its disclosure practices, among other required content...

"b. Failing to provide direct notice to parents of the information it collects online from children, how it uses such information, and its disclosure practices for such information, among other required content...and

"c. Failing to obtain verifiable parental consent before any collection or use of personal information from children

TinyCo has since issued a statement, supporting the principles of COPPA and promising better adherence to its rules.

"Today TinyCo settled with the FTC over COPPA violations in some of our older games. We have worked with the FTC to correct these issues, and have removed all email addresses collected by our old in-game social identity system, some of which may have belonged to children under the age of 13," it reads.

"TinyCo fully supports COPPA and the FTC's effort to protect the privacy and data of children online. We apologize to anyone affected by this issue, and want to be unequivocal in stating that TinyCo is fully committed to protecting user privacy, particularly when children are involved.

"All TinyCo games released since 2012 are strictly compliant with COPPA protections. These titles, including Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff, are COPPA compliant and were not involved in the settlement.

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Latest comments (3)

Tyler Moore Game Designer & Unity Developer 3 years ago
There are a ton of games, sites and online products out there in violation of COPPA's very broad conditions. I wonder what determines which companies the FTC looks at?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tyler Moore on 18th September 2014 4:54pm

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Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop3 years ago
Probably whoever they receive complaints about.
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Sean Kauppinen Founder & CEO, IDEA3 years ago
It's more likely based on the success of the company and the FTC's ability to collect the fine, which pays for the lawsuit. Note that fines never go to the victims, they go to the FTC so the agency can use them to sue more companies. It's a great process.
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