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Yelp, TinyCo Settle FTC Charges They Improperly Collected Kids' Info

Companies didn’t follow federal child data protection law, FTC says in settlement.

Alexey Losevich/Shutterstock

Yelp and children’s mobile app developer TinyCo settled with the Federal Trade Commission over charges it improperly gathered information from children, the government announced Wednesday.

Yelp paid $450,000 to settle the complaint, while TinyCo paid a $300,000 penalty. Both companies are also required to follow compliance plans to ensure that they don’t violate federal rules again.

“Companies should take steps as they build and test their apps to make sure that children’s information won’t be collected without a parent’s consent,” said Jessica Rich, director for the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement.

The settlements mark the latest in a string of complaints the FTC has lodged about app developers ignoring federal laws designed to protect children online and prevent marketers from improperly targeting or tracking them.

Under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, companies are barred from collecting personal information from children under 13 without explicit consent from a parent or guardian.

While Yelp properly obtained parental consent from kids who were accessing the company’s reviews and recommendations’ website, it didn’t do the same for its mobile app, FTC officials said. From 2009 until 2013 the company improperly collected personal information from kids, including their locations and email addresses, according to the FTC.

Officials alleged TinyCo — developer of kids’ games including “Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff,” “Tiny Castle” and “Tiny Zoo Friends” — collected email addresses from children without getting parental consent. In some games, players won in-game currency by providing personal information like email addresses.

Update: Yelp said in a blog post that it fixed a software bug within its app after the FTC brought the problem to its attention. “We’re glad to have been able to cooperate with the FTC to get to a quick resolution and look forward to continuing our efforts to protect our users,” the company said.

In a blog post TinyCo said it has updated older games which weren’t compliant with COPPA and that all of the games it has released since 2013 adhere to the law. “We apologize to anyone affected by this issue, and want to be unequivocal in stating that TinyCo is fully committed to protecting user privacy, particularly when children are involved,” the company said.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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