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.
Source: The New York Times