Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
New Research Suggests At Least One-Third of Children’s Gaming Apps Violate COPPA Privacy Laws

New Research Suggests At Least One-Half of Children’s Gaming Apps Violate Privacy Laws

When parents download a “Designed for Families” gaming app for their children, they assume the game will not only be suitable for their children to play, but that their kids’ personal information will be kept secure. Indeed, federal law requires that child data be stringently protected in all online and internet-connected gaming. Disturbingly, however, new research highlighted in a Washington Post article “We Tested Apps For Children; Half Failed To Protect Their Data” reveals that at least one-half of children’s gaming apps violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by accessing and improperly sharing and monetizing child data in game apps.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a federal law that strongly limits online marketing to children under age 13, in addition to formally requiring website operators to receive parental consent before collecting any personal information from the kids who browse their sites.

The new study examined more than 4,500 of the most popular Google Play applications, and found that 52% of those apps aimed at children under the age of 13 are most likely violating privacy laws. Numerous major toy and game makers have been accused of permitting third-party vendors, including marketing and advertising companies, to track the activities and identities of children in their apps and on their websites.

Children’s data is increasingly vulnerable to improper acquisition and misuse. Many child and consumer advocates feel app makers have neglected their duties to safeguard the personal information of kids who are the intended consumers of the products they develop and distribute. A child’s name, age, location, birthdate, spoken language, and gender can be harvested easily, then misused for overreaching or inappropriate marketing purposes, all in violation of COPPA privacy laws.

According to the Washington Post, “such a high rate of COPPA violations also reveals a systemic and troubling lack of oversight. While app developers are ultimately liable for such violations, it is clear that app stores like Google Play and Apple’s iTunes Store, as well as agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (which is responsible for enforcing COPPA), need to play a greater role.”

In most cases, parents have no way of knowing whether the gaming apps being downloaded are tracking their child’s data. There is a “lack of transparency,” noted the Washington Post, against which consumers need to demand more obvious disclosures from gaming app developers and third-party vendors in order to protect the individual’s data that is being involuntarily shared.

Help Us Stop Illegal Child Data Collection

Giant media companies and digital ad networks directly profit by tracking and accumulating information about kids to generate comprehensive and detailed profiles of children without parental permission. Recent governmental investigations and lawsuits in New York and elsewhere reveal that numerous major game and app manufacturers allow third-parties to illegally access, collect, and profit from children’s personal information on some of the most popular children’s websites and mobile apps and games. Learn more about Child Privacy Data Breaches and significant ongoing violations of U.S. child privacy laws.

Contact Us

If you are interested in finding out more and helping us stop these practices, contact digital privacy lawyers Nicholas Diamand or Douglas Cuthbertson by using the form on this page or by calling us toll-free at 1 800 541-7358.