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.