FTC fines app developer

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According to the FTC's complaint, W3 Innovations, which also operates under the name Broken Thumbs Apps, collected and disclosed personal information from thousands of children under the age of 13 without their parents' consent in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

“The FTC’s COPPA Rule requires parental notice and consent before collecting children’s personal information online, whether through a website or a mobile app,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “Companies must give parents the opportunity to make smart choices when it comes to their children’s sharing of information on smart phones.”

The company had a series of apps directed at children, including "Emily's Girl World," "Emily's Dress Up," and "Emily's Runway High Fashion."

The apps encouraged children to email "Emily" and submit blog posts from their email. The apps were downloaded more than 50,000 times.

The FTC accused W3 Innovations of using the "Emily" series to collect thousands of children's emails. The FTC also alleged that the company allowed children to publicly post their personal information on message boards.

In addition to the fine, the settlement requires W3 Innovations to delete the personal information it gathered.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) praised the FTC's action in a statement.

“Congress passed COPPA over a decade ago precisely to prohibit the type of information collection practices in which W3 was engaged," he said. "And while I am pleased with the FTC’s recent action, I also believe it is crucial that the FTC completes its revision of the COPPA Rule to account for changing technology and give consumers the regulatory protections they need for the future.”