SpongeBob Game Pulled From The App Store For Violating Children’s Privacy Rights

SpongeBob Game Pulled From The App Store For Violating Children’s Privacy Rights

Oops.

A free SpongeBob Squarepants game from Nickelodeon has had to be pulled from the App Store following complaints that it violates children’s online privacy rights. SpongeBob Diner Dash asked children for their names and email addresses without parental permission — so that it could fill their inboxes with spam, no doubt — causing an advocacy group to report the app to the Federal Trade Commission.

Although the game did not collect any other information, it violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) because it does not provide “notice to parents or obtain prior parental consent,” according to the complaint.

A spokesman for Nickelodeon confirmed to The New York Times that the title was temporarily pulled as soon as the company learned of the advocates’ complaint on Monday morning. However, before it disappeared, the title’s App Store description stated that it did comply with federal privacy protections for children online.

“User data collection is in accordance with applicable law, such as Coppa,” it said.

COPPA only applies to children under the age of 13, so Nickelodeon could claim that its game was intended only for children above that age. Last week, another iOS developer used the same excuse when its own game, Mobbles, a “Pokemon-inspired cartoon game app,” was accused of collecting data from children without seeking parental consent, The Times reports.

It’s likely Nickelodeon may just remove the ability to submit names and email addresses to the app and then resubmit it to the App Store. The company has said it’ll only be out temporarily, so expect it to appear again soon.

  • kevin13769

    I am confused, it was pulled from the “APP STORE”….??? Which one…??? The Google App Store, the Amazon App Store, the Microsoft App Store… or THE APP STORE that isn’t allowed to use that trade mark as it is a generic term that covers ALL App Stores…???

  • (???)?

    I am confused, it was pulled from the “APP STORE”….??? Which one…??? The Google App Store, the Amazon App Store, the Microsoft App Store… or THE APP STORE that isn’t allowed to use that trade mark as it is a generic term that covers ALL App Stores…???

    i believe Google and MS has different name for their store. if you think App Store is generic name, “Windows” is a generic word.

  • Killian

    I am confused, it was pulled from the “APP STORE”….??? Which one…??? The Google App Store, the Amazon App Store, the Microsoft App Store… or THE APP STORE that isn’t allowed to use that trade mark as it is a generic term that covers ALL App Stores…???

    There’s only one “App Store,” and that’s Apple’s. Google’s marketplace is called “Google Play,” Microsoft’s is called the “Windows Store,” and Amazon’s is called the “Appstore” — similar, but still different.

  • technochick

    These ‘not intended for’ bits are a joke. I get a popup about things being or adults and just click okay and keep going. But nothing validates that I am of age. I can fake my birthdate to sign up for an account.

    I know privacy nuts freak about validations but unless such things are required, kids will just lie and sign up or apple IDs, facebook etc. no matter the rules

  • Reivax

    Plankton has taken over as Lead Developer, following Patrick’s (hilarious) resignation.

  • joewaylo

    Nickelodeon doesn’t need this data at all. They should remove it since Apple has a rating module required to be assigned for the apps. Parents enable the restriction under the settings/general/restrictions/Apps for games over the rated setting.

    4+, 9+, 12+, 17+ and all apps have a rating restriction that blocks games over the age range parents assign unless the kids enter the pin number.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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