The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved a final settlement with Miniclip, a digital game developer that made false claims regarding its participation in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) safe harbor program.
The COPPA protects children’s safety and privacy online by prohibiting the unnecessary or unauthorized collection of their personal information by operators of websites and online services.
The FTC is responsible for implementing the COPPA, which includes a provision allowing industry groups to secure approval for self-regulatory programs from the Commission. In 2001, the Commission approved the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) as a COPPA safe harbor program.
In May, the FTC filed a complaint against Miniclip for allegedly misrepresenting its participation in the CARU COPPA safe harbor program.
Based on the Commission’s investigation, Miniclip was a member of CARU COPPA safe harbor program until July 6, 2015. However, the digital game developer claimed that it was a member of the COPPA safe harbor program until July 2019.
The FTC alleged that Miniclip violated Section 5 of the FTC Act by making a false or misleading statement about is membership in the CARU COPPA safe harbor program.
The settlement between FTC and Miniclip
On Monday, the FTC announced that its settlement with the digital game developer has been finalized.
According to the Commission, the final settlement prohibits Miniclip from misrepresenting its participation or certification in any privacy or security program sponsored by a government or any self-regulatory organization, including the CARU COPPA safe harbor program.
Miniclip is also subject to compliance and recordkeeping requirements.
In a statement, FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra said, “Today, the FTC is taking action against Miniclip, but not for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Instead, the Commission is ordering Miniclip to stop misrepresenting that it participates in a children’s privacy self-regulatory program.”
Additionally, Chopra expressed concern that the reasons that lead to the termination of Miniclip’s membership in the CARU COPPA safe harbor program “remain a secret to the public.”
“If the FTC does not promptly learn about or investigate terminations by COPPA Safe Harbors, the agency may be unable to obtain civil penalties, due to the five-year statute of limitations,” wrote Chopra.
He is recommending that the FTC must increase its oversight of the COPPA Safe Harbor program.