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CARU Takes Action Against Two Mobile Apps

Two mobile apps directed at children were recently subject to action by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit. The first, “My Talking Tom,” is a virtual pet game for children operated by Outfit7 Limited. One issue was the display of Outfit7’s privacy policy. Under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, privacy policies must be understandable, and contain no unrelated material. The app’s policy, however, contained advertisements for other games, and animated balloons that obstructed the user’s view. Accordingly, CARU found that the distracting content violated COPPA. Outfit7 prudently removed the content, and CARU took no further action on the issue.

The second, “KleptoCats,” operated by HyperBeard, Inc., is a children’s game in which the user controls a virtual pet cat. Although the app’s privacy statement excludes children under 13, CARU questioned whether the app nonetheless attracts a substantial number of children under 13, and thus is subject to COPPA regulations. CARU investigated whether KleptoCats collects personally identifiable information from users under 13, without first obtaining parental consent. CARU attempted to engage HyperBeard in its investigation, but the game operator failed to respond. Accordingly, CARU referred the case to the FTC for a full federal investigation.

Putting it Into Practice: These cases are a reminder that companies receiving a CARU inquiry should take the matter seriously. CARU regularly refers to the FTC those who refuse to cooperate, and the FTC reviews such cases with priority.

Copyright © 2019, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.

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About this Author

Robert E. Hough II Intellectual Property Lawyer Sheppard Mullin Law Firm
Associate

Robert Hough is an associate in the Intellectual Property Practice Group in the firm’s Dallas office.

Areas of Practice

Robert represents clients in litigation to secure, enforce, and leverage their valuable intellectual property rights. He counsels clients in matters related to copyright, trademark, trade dress, trade secret, advertising, publicity, and entertainment law. He regularly leads clients through trademark enforcement proceedings under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) before the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO...

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