Kids’ Gaming Apps, Such as Mobbles, Being Preemptively Pulled Off the Market as FTC Gears Up to Launch Privacy Violation Investigation

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is gearing up to launch a children’s mobile game privacy investigation that is so massive, kids’ game makers, such as Mobbles, are hastily yanking titles before the FTC investigation becomes official. Mobbles was unofficially informed that their software is part of the some 200 titles being investigated in connection with accusations that they are storing the private information of its young users, including their locations.

Among the gravest of allegations is that the titles officially being investigated by the FTC all gathered information of their child users without the consent, or even the knowledge of. The FTC will be performing the investigation to determine if Mobbles, and the other named titles (which the FTC is yet to release), are in violation of the Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires users to be shown a privacy policy and prohibits the game developers, or its affiliated advertisers, from collecting information from the underage users. An FTC survey conducted found that, of the 200 titles they are targeting, 80% did not show a privacy policy, and nearly 60% collected personal information.

Mobbles maintains that their decision to pull the app was merely to be proactive in taking their privacy policies seriously. In a statement on their site they said, “We have been informed by various members of the media that Mobbles has been or will be identified in a filing with the FTC regarding the manner in which it collects, stores and uses consumer information. At this point, however, we have not received any official notice or service of any such filing. Thus it is impossible for us to respond in any intelligent way to allegations that we have neither seen nor analyzed in full. Assuming the media is reporting accurate information, we will review any such allegations with our
legal counsel and will be better able to respond .”

Also notable was their updated privacy policy, displayed prominently on their home page.

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Kids’ Gaming Apps, Such as Mobbles, Being Preemptively Pulled Off the Market as FTC Gears Up to Launch Privacy Violation Investigation

Kids’ Gaming Apps, Such as Mobbles, Being Preemptively Pulled Off the Market as FTC Gears Up to Launch Privacy Violation Investigation

 

The updated privacy policy contains a bold print statetment reading “For parents who want to request, modify or delete information regarding their chlidren’s account, make a request at parents@mobbles.com.”

But the FTC has concerns that are serious, including the fact the some of the apps offer the ability for underage users to make purchases from within the app (known as “in-app purchase”), and that some use geolocations to locate the positions of the players. The FTC investigation is a good move to let mobile game and app makers that gear their products towards children know that they will be held accountable for violating COPPA, but as always, the best defense starts at home, with parents making sure they thoroughly investigate the games and apps that their children use.

  
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Kids’ Gaming Apps, Such as Mobbles, Being Preemptively Pulled Off the Market as FTC Gears Up to Launch Privacy Violation Investigation

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