FTC Settles With Website Over Kids Info Collection

Signals it is in business of protecting online privacy

The FTC said it has secured a $235,000 settlement from a website it said collected personal information from children under 13 without obtaining their parents' consent, in violation of its stated privacy policy.

The commission said the site violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires disclosure of information collection, user and disclosure, as well as the FTC's rules against deception.

The FTC said the site, ExploreTalent.com, also falsely claimed in its privacy policy that it was not knowingly collecting such information. The vote was 2-0. The FTC is still down three members, so the actions taken by its two members, a Republican and a Democrat, must be unanimous).

The company agreed to comply with COPPA in the future and to delete the information it previously collected.

How vigorously the FTC enforces online privacy policies will be important in its oversight of ISP privacy, which it is inheriting from the FCC once its vote to reclassify ISPs under Title I goes into effect.

Under the net neutrality regulation rollback, the FTC will be charged with enforcing pledges by ISPs not to block or throttle content.

Republican FTC chair Maureen Ohlhausen has promised that her agency would be a strong enforcer of online privacy and conduct, and echoed that Monday (Feb. 5) with the release of the settlement.

“Explore Talent collected the personal information of more than 100,000 children, but failed to adhere to the safeguards required by law,” Ohlhausen said. “Today’s settlement provides strong relief for consumers and will help ensure children are protected going forward.”

"This settlement shows why we knew COPPA would be needed in the first place, when we campaigned for its congressional enactment in 1998," said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "It reveals that if the FTC had statutory authority to protect the privacy of Americans aged 13 and up, Google, Facebook, Equinox and the other digital data marketing giants couldn’t get away with what they are able to do today. Sadly, COPPA’s provisions stop when a child turns 13."