The Federal Trade Commission has sent letters to more than 90 different companies who develop mobile apps that the FTC claims may be directed to children.  The letters emphasize that the FTC has not evaluated the apps or the companies’ practices to determine if they comply with the current or revised COPPA Rule.  Instead, the letters remind these companies that if their apps collect, use, or disclose children’s images and voices, mobile device identifiers, and other types of “personal information,” they must bring their apps into compliance with the revised COPPA Rule by July 1, 2013.  

The letters were sent to US companies and foreign companies that the FTC claims direct their apps to children in the US.  The letters focus on the collection of persistent identifiers and photographs, videos, and audio containing a child’s image or voice.  The FTC did not identify the companies receiving the letters, but made templates of the different versions available on its website, including a letter to:  (1) US companies with apps that collect persistent identifiers; (2) US companies with  aps that collect videos, images, or audio of kids; (3) foreign companies with apps that collect persistent identifiers; and (4) foreign companies with apps that collect videos, images, or audio of kids.

The letters suggest that the FTC could continue to focus attention on kid-directed mobile apps once the revised COPPA Rule takes effect.  In February 2012 and December 2012, the FTC released reports analyzing hundreds of kid-directed mobile apps and concluding that many app developers could be doing more to provide clear and complete notice of their privacy practices.  And earlier this year the FTC entered into a consent decree with mobile app developer Path for alleged COPPA violations.  

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Photo of Lindsey Tonsager Lindsey Tonsager

Lindsey Tonsager helps national and multinational clients in a broad range of industries anticipate and effectively evaluate legal and reputational risks under federal and state data privacy and communications laws.

In addition to assisting clients engage strategically with the Federal Trade Commission, the…

Lindsey Tonsager helps national and multinational clients in a broad range of industries anticipate and effectively evaluate legal and reputational risks under federal and state data privacy and communications laws.

In addition to assisting clients engage strategically with the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Congress, and other federal and state regulators on a proactive basis, she has experience helping clients respond to informal investigations and enforcement actions, including by self-regulatory bodies such as the Digital Advertising Alliance and Children’s Advertising Review Unit.

Ms. Tonsager’s practice focuses on helping clients launch new products and services that implicate the laws governing the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising and social media, the collection of personal information from children and students online, behavioral advertising, e-mail marketing, artificial intelligence the processing of “big data” in the Internet of Things, spectrum policy, online accessibility, compulsory copyright licensing, telecommunications and new technologies.

Ms. Tonsager also conducts privacy and data security diligence in complex corporate transactions and negotiates agreements with third-party service providers to ensure that robust protections are in place to avoid unauthorized access, use, or disclosure of customer data and other types of confidential information. She regularly assists clients in developing clear privacy disclosures and policies―including website and mobile app disclosures, terms of use, and internal social media and privacy-by-design programs.