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FTC settles with children's gamemaker


The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday it has reached a  settlement with a Swiss game maker that is owned by a Chinese tech company over allegations it misled consumers about its membership in a program intended to ensure companies adhered to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

FTC alleged that Neuchâtel, Switzerland-based Miniclip SA, which makes mobile and other digital games, falsely claimed it was a current member of the Children’s Advertising Review Unit’s COPPA safe harbor program. Miniclip is owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd., a Shenzhen, China-based tech conglomerate.

The COPPA rule requires companies that collect personal information about children under 13 to provide parents with notice of their collection practice and obtain verifiable parental consent. 

Under COPPA, companies are considered to be in compliance with COPPA if they are a member and adhere to the guidelines of an FTC-approved COPPA safe harbor program.

The FTC said Miniclip joined CARU’s safe harbor program in 2009 and remained a member until 2015, when CARU terminated its participation in the program.

However, the FTC alleges that from 2015 through mid-2019, Miniclip falsely claimed on its website and on its Facebook games privacy page that it was a member of CARU’s safe harbor program, according to the FTC complaint.

The commission voted 5-0 to issue the proposed administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement with Miniclip. The agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period after its publication in the Federal Register, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Each violation of these orders could result in a civil penalty of up to $43,280, according to the FTC.

FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra, said in a statement that Miniclip is a major player in the mobile gaming space, offering more than 1,000 games to users, including children, worldwide. 

Referring to Miniclip’s 2015 termination from CARU’s Safe Harbor program, Mr. Chopra’s statement said, “terminations are exceedingly rare.”

“While I support this action, the Miniclip matter reinforces my concerns about the COPPA Safe Harbor programs,” said the statement. “The Commission must take many steps to revamp its approach to these third-party privacy policing programs,” it said.

Mr. Chopra’s suggestions include subjecting COPPA Safe Harbor to routine reviews and Commission votes to maintain accreditation “rather than the current lifetime approach.”

Miniclip’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.









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