This week, the Center for Digital Democracy (disclosure: I often work with the group) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against the Mobbles Corporation over its mobile application Mobbles, which is a game involving virtual pets. CDD alleges that Mobbles violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). CDD says that Mobbles “collects personal information from children without providing any notice to parents (nor even attempting to obtain verifiable parental consent), as required by law” and the game “raises a number of privacy and child-safety issues.” (Note that the FTC recently issued a new report on mobile applications for children; the FTC found there has been little progress toward addressing privacy concerns in mobile apps for kids and that it would be investigating such apps for violations of COPPA.)
After learning that the complaint would be filed, Mobbles Corp. took the app offline temporarily, reports Adweek:
Mobbles, a San Francisco-based start up, was taken totally by surprise, and immediately took the app offline and posted a statement on its website, before it received any official notice. Alex Curtelin, the co-founder and CEO, chalked it up to poor communication about how it communicated its privacy policies.
“We don’t store any sensitive information,” Curtelin told Adweek. “We only use nickname and email of users to operate the app. Articles are implying that we are collecting a bunch of information. We are being careful not to collect information. There is no advertising, so we don’t share any data with any commercial entity,” he said. […]
The new Mobbles version with an improved privacy disclaimer will be available on the Android system in the next day or so, but the Apple version could take much longer, Curtelin said.