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Nov. 26 --A San Francisco-based developer of mobile device applications is barred from collecting the personal information of children younger than 13 until it complies with the Children's Online Privacy Act and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, under the terms of a settlement announced Nov. 22 by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General (In re Dokogeo Inc., N.J. Dep't of Law and Public Safety Div. of Consumer Affairs, docket number unavailable, consent order 11/13/13).
The administrative consent order requires Dokogeo Inc. to disclose clearly and conspicuously in its apps and on the home page of its websites the types of personal information it collects, the manner in which it uses the information and whether it shares information with third parties.
The settlement requires Dokogeo to verify that anyone using any of its apps that collect personal information is older than 13.
Dokogeo also agreed to a suspended payout of $25,000, which will be due immediately if the company fails to comply with the restraints and conditions in the settlement agreement. The payout obligation will be vacated after 10 years if Dokogeo meets all settlement terms and avoids violating consumer fraud and child online privacy laws.
“This is an important settlement because it restrains Dokogeo from collecting personal information about children while requiring transparency from the company about how it handles whatever consumer information it does collect,’’ Christopher S. Porrino, director of the New Jersey Division of Law, said in a Nov. 22 statement by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.
The state alleged that Dokogeo violated COPPA, 15 U.S.C. §§ 6501-6506, and the Federal Trade Commission's COPPA Rule, 16 C.F.R. pt. 312, by collecting personal information about children who used its Dokobots mobile app, a geolocation scavenger hunt app that uses animated cartoon characters.
The COPPA Rule imposes parental notice and consent requirements on websites and online services collecting information from children younger than 13. The FTC's amendments to the COPPA Rule took effect July 1 (128 PRA, 7/3/13).
The state claimed the app is directed at both children and adults by virtue of its use of animation and child-themed storyline, making the Dokobots website subject to COPPA. Dokogeo denies that the app is directed at children, according to the consent order.
The state claimed the Dokobots app collects information that would be considered personal information under COPPA, including e-mail addresses, photographs and geolocation information.
Dokogeo already has removed all photographs and files containing children's images from its Dokobots website and has removed geolocation information of children since July 1, according to the consent order.
This is the second settlement New Jersey has reached with an app developer accused by the state of violating COPPA, according to the attorney general's statement. In a July 2012 settlement with the state, 24x7digital LLC, a developer of children's apps, agreed to stop collecting and transmitting the personal data of children without notifying parents and obtaining parental consent (124 PRA, 6/28/12).
Tsan Abrahamson, an attorney with Cobalt LLP in Berkeley, Calif., who represents Dokogeo, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 25 that she has no comment on the settlement.
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