FTC settles with gaming site over privacy claims

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The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it has settled with a children’s online gaming company that falsely claimed to be a certified participant in an online privacy agreement between the U.S. and EU.

The U.S.-EU Safe Harbor agreement — a cooperative agreement between U.S. agencies and the European Commission — allows U.S. tech companies to store and process data belonging to European citizens if the companies can prove they meet European data protection principles.

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According to the FTC’s Tuesday announcement, Fantage.com — which makes multiplayer games aimed at children — claimed to be certified under the Safe Harbor program but had let its certification lapse. Under the proposed settlement, the site is prohibited from making similar false claims in the future.

“This does not necessarily mean that the company committed any substantive violations of the privacy principles of the Safe Harbor framework or other privacy laws,” the agency said.

The enforcement action — along with a set of enforcement actions earlier this year, including against NFL teams — comes as the U.S. government is defending itself against other criticism about privacy protections.

In the wake of revelations about U.S. government surveillance, European lawmakers have repeatedly questioned the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor agreement, concerned that the agreement allows the U.S. government to access European data through American tech companies.

“They don’t consider our privacy laws to be quote-unquote adequate,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said earlier in the week, speaking at a Silicon Flatirons event.

Ramirez defended her agency against the criticisms from other countries, saying the FTC is taking “a more proactive look at this program in terms of enforcement” and “making a dent in getting this perspective to change.”

“The actions that we’ve taken protect hundreds and millions of consumers, not only in the U.S., but around the world,” she said.