I received an email earlier today from Roy Smith at AgeCheq [Thanks, Roy!] with a link to an article published by the Washington Post on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act as applied to the mobile apps niche.
The Washington Post article, which you can read here, is interesting in that it goes beyond the usual general criticisms surrounding the protection of children online. Instead, thousands of mobile apps directed at children under 13 in the iTunes and Google stores were analyzed to assess the extent to which app acknowledged COPPA much less complied with the law. I won’t ruin the article for you, but the percentages were laughable, which should come as no surprise considering the FTC has issued press releases detailing how less than half of mobile apps directed at children even have privacy policies.
The Washington Post article focuses on Google and Apple as facilitators of the COPPA violations but doesn’t place near enough blame where it rightly belongs – at the feet of the FTC. The FTC has proven to be nothing, if not stubborn, about abandoning its duty to enforce COPPA in the consumer market over the years. From a modified COPPA Rule in 2013 to the recent inclusion of Internet of Things devices in the definition of properties covered by COPPA, the FTC has raised its metaphysical head to roar warnings of impending enforcement actions every so often only to settle back into long periods of inaction. At this point, the boy who cried wolf rolls his eyes when the FTC issues any COPPA-related communication.
Does the Washington Post article act as a game changer? Unlikely. Individuals drawing the short straw in the office have been dragged up before Congress for a tongue lashing in the past with promises of action always going unfulfilled. The latest humiliation is nothing new, and one can only imagine the temptation of office staff to issue a fake news press release declaring the protection of children’s personal information online has never been better.
Well, maybe the Europeans will act where the FTC has not.
Richard Chapo, Esq.