Rockefeller Commends Enforcement Action Against COPPA Violator, Calls on FTC to Complete Revision of Kids Online Privacy Rule

August 15, 2011

Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member HutchisonWASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today commended the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on its enforcement action against W3 Innovations after the Commission determined the mobile application company was in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  The company has agreed to pay a $50,000 fine for collecting and maintaining over 30,000 emails containing email addresses and the personal information from nearly 1,000 users of its online services directed to children under the age of 13.  

The enforcement action today accompanies a new FTC publication entitled “Living Life Online” that educates kids about their online safety. 

“As I have made clear at a number of online privacy hearings held by this Committee, consumers may not realize that their personal information is being collected by third party companies for marketing or profiling purposes,” Rockefeller said.  “We must be particularly vigilant when it comes to protecting the privacy and safety of our children.  Congress passed COPPA over a decade ago precisely to prohibit the type of information collection practices in which W3 was engaged.  The FTC’s enforcement action sets a legal precedent that mobile applications targeting children must abide by the protections established by the law.  And while I am pleased with the FTC’s recent action, I also believe it is crucial that the FTC completes its revision of the COPPA Rule to account for changing technology and give consumers the regulatory protections they need for the future.”

The Commerce Committee has held several hearings to address online privacy this Congress. At a May 2011 hearing on consumer privacy and protection in the mobile marketplace, Chairman Rockefeller called on FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director David Vladeck to complete the Commission’s revision of its COPPA Rule to provide consumers with stronger regulatory protection when it comes to mobile applications.  Rockefeller also questioned leading mobile application developers and platforms, including Google, Apple, Facebook, and the trade association representing application developers on their compliance with COPPA.  The hearing came after Rockefeller sent letters to the companies requesting information on their mobile applications for kids, third party involvement, and what steps they have taken to ensure compliance with COPPA.