United States v. W3 Innovations, LLC, No. CV-11-03958, FTC File No. 102 3251 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 8, 2011) (Consent Order).
The FTC's complaint charged that W3 Innovations, LLC, doing business as Broken Thumbs Apps, and company president and owner Justin Maples, develop and distribute mobile apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch that allow users to play games and share information online. According to the FTC, several of the apps, including the Emily’s Girl World, Emily’s Dress Up, Emily’s Dress Up & Shop, and Emily’s Runway High Fashion, were directed to children and were listed in the Games-Kids section of Apple, Inc.’s App Store.
There have been more than 50,000 downloads of these apps, which allowed children to play classic games such as Cootie Catcher and Truth or Dare, and to create virtual models and design outfits. The Emily apps encouraged children to email “Emily” their comments and submit blogs to “Emily’s Blog” via email, such as “shout-outs” to friends and requests for advice. The FTC alleged that the defendants collected and maintained thousands of email addresses from users of the Emily apps.
In addition to collecting and maintaining children’s email addresses, the FTC alleges that the defendants also allowed children to publicly post information, including personal information, on message boards. These interactive apps send and receive information via the Internet, and are online services covered by the COPPA Rule, according to the FTC complaint.
According to the complaint, the defendants did not provide notice of their information-collection practices and did not obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting and/or disclosing personal information from children. The FTC charged that those practices violated the COPPA Rule.
== Consent Order
The Federal Trade Commission entered into a Consent Order with the developer of child-directed mobile apps for alleged violations of the COPPA Rule. In addition to imposing the $50,000 penalty, the settlement bars the defendants from future violations of the COPPA Rule and require them to delete all personal information collected in violation of the COPPA Rule.