By Cameron G. Shilling (originally published 5/19/2011)
A Disney subsidiary, Playdom, Inc., has agreed to pay a $3 million penalty to settle a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charge that it violated the FTC’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule by collecting and disclosing personal information from hundreds of thousands of children under age 13 without their parents’ prior consent.
Playdom is a leading developer of online multi-player gaming virtual worlds. At least one of them, called Pony Stars, was specifically directed to children, and others intended for a general audience also attracted significant children. The FTC complaint alleged that Playdom collected children’s ages and email addresses during registration, and then enabled children to publicly post their full names, email addresses, instant messenger IDs, and location on personal profile pages and in online community forums.
In addition to the $3 million penalty, the consent decree permanently bars Playdom from violating the COPPA Rule and from misrepresenting their information practices regarding children.