The operator of fan websites for music stars Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez settled charges with the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday for allegedly collecting information on children without their parents' consent in violation of federal law.
According to the FTC, Artist Arena collected children's names, addresses, email addresses, birth dates, gender and other information without notifying their parents. The sites allowed children to join fan clubs for their favorite music stars, create profiles and post on each other's walls.
According to the complaint, Artist Arena registered 25,000 children younger than 13 years old and collected information from almost 75,000 children who began, but did not complete the registration process.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires websites to notify parents and obtain their consent before collecting information on children under 13.
“Marketers need to know that even a bad case of Bieber fever doesn’t excuse their legal obligation to get parental consent before collecting personal information from children,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said.
The FTC is currently reviewing comments on its proposal to update and revise COPPA.
The proposal would expand the law to cover not only websites, but also games, apps, ad networks and other online plug-ins. The update also would ban ads on children's websites from installing tracking files, known as cookies, on users' computers.