New Mexico sues Tiny Lab over children's data
In September 2018, the attorney general of the US state of New Mexico filed suit against Lithuania-based Tiny Lab Productions claiming that the maker of the children's app Fun Kid Racing had violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (1998) by collecting location and other data about the children playing the game. The suit also included online ad businesses run by Google, Twitter, and three other companies, arguing that Google's inclusion of the app in the family section of its Play Store was misleading. Tiny Lab said it thought it was in compliance as the app asked for users' ages and tracked those who said they were over 13. This has become a common practice; there are financial incentives for app makers to mischaracterize apps as directed at whole families rather than children, which would limit their sources of revenue. In June 2018, academic researchers identified almost 3,000 apps that appeared to be similarly mislabelled, including 84 from Tiny Lab. The study found that more than half of children's Android apps were sharing tracking ID numbers, and that 5% collected children's location or contact details without their parents' permission.
Overall, the FTC has brought almost 30 cases alleging violations of COPPA; all were settled. The New Mexico suit's approach is new, in that it targets the ad platforms and Google's vetting process.
writer: Jennifer Valentino-Davies, Natasha Singer, Aaron Krolik, and Michael H. Keller
publication: New York Times