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FTC Warns Two Foreign-Based App Developers of Possible COPPA Violations

The FTC staff recently sent two warning letters to Gator Group Co., Ltd., and Tinitell, Inc., which marketed mobile apps directed to children and appear to be violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The FTC warning letters were also sent to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, which make the apps available to consumers.

The warning letters alert both companies that their online services appear to be in violation of COPPA because neither obtain parental consent before collecting data from children. Gator, which is based in China, advertised an app, “the Kids GPS” watch, as a “child’s first cell phone.”  The app connects to the watch and collects the child’s name, can track the child, and enables the user to set an alarm for when the child leaves a geo-fenced safe zone. Similarly, the Tinitell app connects to a mobile phone worn like a watch for children, which can locate a child, call a child, and add contacts. The advertising promotes the app and mobile phone “designed for kids, with calling and smart location features.” Tinitell is based in Sweden.

Both warning letters describe how the FTC’s COPPA Rule requires (i) parental consent before information can be collected from children under the age of 13, and (ii) applies to foreign-based sites or services that are directed to children in the U.S. that knowingly collect personal information from children.  In addition, the letter notes that the online service appears to be directed to children and appears to collect precise geolocation information from children. The letter further describes the requirements of COPPA and encourages the companies to take the necessary steps to comply.

The FTC will likely follow up with these companies to determine if they have aligned their practices to comply with COPPA.

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About this Author

Katherine Armstrong, Drinker Biddle Law Firm, Washington DC, Data Privacy Attorney

Katherine E. Armstrong is counsel in the firm’s Government & Regulatory Affairs Practice Group where she focuses her practice on data privacy issues, including law enforcement investigations, and research and analysis of big data information practices including data broker issues.

Katherine has more than 30 years of consumer protection experience at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), where she served in a variety of roles, including most recently as a Senior Attorney in the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.  In the Division of...