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The Monster Is Out Of The Closet …

Many game developers have adopted an attitude about the new COPPA regulations similar to a child scared of a monster in the closet who covers their eyes to cope with the fear… “If I can’t see it, it’s not there.” That might have worked, until today.

Many of the game developers I’ve spoken with in recent months have adopted an attitude about the new U.S. COPPA regulations that reminds me of a child who is scared of the monster in the closet and covers their eyes as a method of coping with the fear… “If I can’t see it, it’s not there.”

In the past, the Federal Trade Commission has given industries that they regulate a “grace period” in which to modify their business practices to comply with new laws.  The new COPPA law (which I refer to as “COPPA 2.0”) was specifically updated to regulate child privacy issues in the mobile game and app market.  The law went into effect on July 1, 2013, but despite the fact that very few games have been modified to comply with the new law, there have been no publicized investigations or complaints.

Until today.

The Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint with the FTC about Disney’s “Hello Kitty Carnival” mobile app, claiming the app collects and shares personally identifiable information (PII) from children, in violation of COPPA 2.0.

With this news, the COPPA 2.0 “monster” just came out of the closet.

It’s too early to tell if the FTC will actually investigate Disney, this is only a well-publicized complaint from a privacy group.  But the FTC has already chastised the mobile game industry for not complying with its privacy regulations, and I think this complaint presents a good chance for them to make an example of a globally known content provider who allegedly played fast and loose with children’s privacy. 

In the coming months, I would not be surprised to see the FTC investigate Disney and levy a “headline generating” fine as a way of showing our industry they are serious about COPPA 2.0 and they will go after developers that do not comply.

So as a game developer, this is a good time to ask yourself, “Do I want to risk my business by ignoring COPPA 2.0, or is it time to accept that it isn’t going away and take the necessary steps to be compliant?”

If you'd like to educate yourself on COPPA, here's a page of history and links we've created for game developers at AgeCheq. To learn more about COPPA directly from The Federal Trade Commission, check out this list of answers to frequently asked questions: http://business.ftc.gov/documents/Complying-with-COPPA-Frequently-Asked-Questions

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