App to offer refunds, notify parents after allegations of illegally collecting kids’ info

ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s a scenario familiar to so many parents: kids being glued to the internet or apps on their phones.

“They’re on it too often,” said Grace Vinci, a grandmother of six young kids. “I think especially this year because of the online learning. Parents need to know what their children are doing and what they’re viewing online.”

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Now the government is sending a message to companies who don’t follow the rules for protecting the privacy of kids on their apps or sites.

The operators of the Recolor coloring book app are required to offer refunds and to notify parents after allegations they illegally collected kids’ personal information without getting approval from the parents first.

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The Federal Trade Commission said the companies behind the app violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA).

COPPA requires apps or websites that are directed to children under 13 in any way to get parental consent before collecting personal information about their children.

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The FTC also said the companies received dozens of complaints from parents and users who said children were using the social media feature to post selfies and interact with other users including adults.

“We thought it was important to bring an enforcement action here to address the issues in this specific case,” said Evan Rose, a staff attorney for the FTC. “It also sends a message to other companies that they’re responsible for complying with the COPPA rule if they direct their app or website to children even partially.”

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While the responsibility lies with the company to follow the rule, parents can also be armed with the information about their rights.

“Of course, parents want to be mindful of what their kids are doing online,” said Rose. “Under the law, companies are required to tell parents what information they’re going to collect from children so that parents can make those informed decisions.”

As part of the settlement, the companies have to delete personal information they collected about children under age 13 if they did not get parental consent.

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