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December 19, 2012

SpongeBob app removed over child privacy concerns

The Center for Digital Democracy said the game collected email addresses of children without consulting their parents

By CBR Staff Writer

Children’s cable channel Nickelodeon has pulled its SpongeBob Diner Dash app from Apple’s App Store following a complaint by a US advocacy group to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging it breached the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The Center for Digital Democracy said the game collected children’s email addresses and other personal information without obtaining parental consent.

CDD said in a statement: "The SpongeBob Diner Dash game asks children to provide a wide range of personal information, including full name, email address, and other online contact information, without providing notice to parents or obtaining prior parental consent, as required by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act."

The US advocacy group demanded the FTC looked into the app’s data collection and privacy notice practices, including its use of mobile marketing technologies, such as unique device identifiers (UDIDs) and device tokens.

These technologies allowed firms to send custom messages to children in the form of ‘push notifications’ that needed online contact information, which are considered personal information as per the COPPA rules.

CDD executive director Jeff Chester said that it was clear that this was not an isolated incident.

"As the FTC report last week on children’s mobile apps revealed, this industry is not taking seriously its obligations under COPPA," Chester said. "The Commission needs to step up its enforcement actions and adopt new rules that will address the growing threats to children’s privacy in the expanding mobile marketplace."

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