The Federal Trade Commission has announced a settlement concerning children’s privacy and online gaming:
The operators of 20 online virtual worlds have agreed to pay $3 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they violated the Childrenâ€™s Online Privacy Protection Rule by illegally collecting and disclosing personal information from hundreds of thousands of children under age 13 without their parentsâ€™ prior consent. This settlement is the largest civil penalty for a violation of the FTCâ€™s COPPA Rule.
The FTCâ€™s complaint charged that Playdom, Inc., a leading developer of online multi-player games, and company executive Howard Marks operated 20 virtual world websites where users could access online games and other activities, including 2 Moons, 9 Dragons, and My Diva Doll. At least one of these virtual worlds, Pony Stars, was a website specifically directed to children, and the companyâ€™s other websites intended for a general audience also attracted a significant number of children. Between 2006 and 2010, approximately 403,000 children registered on the defendantsâ€™ general audience sites, and 821,000 more users registered in the Pony Stars childrenâ€™s site.
In addition to the $3 million civil penalty, the settlement order permanently bars the defendants from violating the COPPA Rule and from misrepresenting their information practices regarding children.