United States: The FTC Continues Its Focus On The Mobile Arena

The Federal Trade Commission has recently focused its consumer protection efforts on the mobile arena, and particularly video game companies operating in that arena.

Early last year, the FTC issued several staff reports related to mobile commerce and gaming.  The reports (1) examined the use of mobile payments (see "Paper, Plastic... or Mobile?  An FTC Workshop on Mobile Payments"), (2) promoted improved privacy disclosures for mobile consumers (see "Mobile Privacy Disclosures, Building Trust through Transparency") and (3) revised online advertising disclosure guidelines (see ".com Disclosures, How to Make Effective Advertising Disclosures in Digital Advertising").  As with all FTC guidance, such reports do not represent the law.  However, the reports do create safe harbors for companies that want to avoid FTC scrutiny.

The FTC further pursued its efforts related to mobile content by sending educational letters to businesses, including video game companies, to assist them in preparing for updates required by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act ("COPPA").  The FTC sent its COPPA letters to domestic and foreign companies whose online services, including mobile applications, appeared to collect personal information from children under 13.

COPPA's requirements went into effect on July 1, 2013.  Under COPPA, companies cannot collect, store or transmit "personal information" of children without parental consent.  "Personal information" has been broadly defined to include persistent identifiers (e.g., online user names, cookies or mobile ID numbers), photos, videos and audio recordings.  In addition to requiring parental consent, companies transmitting any such information must ensure that the recipient keeps such information secure and confidential (and also abide by applicable rules related to how the information is stored and retained).  COPPA also applies to information collected within apps by third-parties such as advertising companies.  See, Complying With COPPA:  Frequently Asked Questions

This year, the FTC has sustained its protection efforts against fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the mobile arena.  For example, on March 27, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission approved a settlement with Apple of the FTC's claim that Apple unfairly charged consumers for gaming and application purchases made by children without their parents' consent.  The FTC's Complaint noted that "Apple offers thousands of apps for free or a specific dollar amount, including games that children are likely to play.  In many instances, after installation, children can obtain virtual items within a game, many of which cost money. Apple bills charges for items that cost money within an app—'in-app charges'—to the parent."  The FTC claimed that Apple did not notify parents that entering their password would approve a purchase and result in a 15 minute window during which unlimited charges could be incurred, without further parental consent.  Apple agreed with the FTC to settle the case by providing full refunds – totaling a minimum of $32.5 million – to any consumer billed for children's unauthorized or accidental in-app purchases.

The FTC has also settled claims against a children's gaming company, Fantage.com, for allegedly falsely claiming to comply with international safe harbor privacy rules.  According to the FTC's complaint, the company (which created and hosts a multiplayer online role-playing game directed at children aged 6-16) claimed that it held current certifications under the United States-European Union Safe Harbor framework.  The statement was included in the company's privacy policy.  (The Safe Harbor Framework is a voluntary program whereby a company annually self-certifies to the U.S. Department of Commerce that it complies with certain EU privacy principles necessary to meet EU's privacy standards.)  The company had allowed its certification to lapse, and yet continued to represent that it complied with the framework.  In the proposed consent order settlement, the company is prohibited from misrepresenting its participation in privacy or data security programs.

Most recently, as of April 17, 2014, the FTC has invited further public comment on mobile security issues as part of its development of a report related thereto.  Specifically, the FTC seeks further information on how to protect consumers' privacy and security through platform design, distribution channels, development practices and the lifecycle of mobile devices.

With the FTC's emphasis on protecting consumers in the mobile arena, companies operating within that arena must diligently and vigilantly police their own advertising, marketing, data collection and privacy policies to ensure compliance with the FTC's rules.  The FTC's efforts in this area will only continue to grow, commensurate with society's increased dependence on mobile commerce and entertainment.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Events from this Firm
13 Nov 2018, Other, Los Angeles, United States

Public concern about privacy, data security and data sharing is surging, and it is leading to changes in the law and the way we do business

15 Nov 2018, Speaking Engagement, San Francisco, United States

EMPOWERED WOMEN MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Give back to your community and change a life with Sheppard Mullin’s Women Lawyers Group

15 Nov 2018, Other, San Diego, United States

The University of San Diego's Center for Cyber Security Engineering and Technology will host this upcoming Symposium in Cyber Law, Risk and Policy to be held on the beautiful USD campus.

 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions