FTC Settles Charges Against Children’s Social Media Network After Collecting Personal Information Without Parental Consent

The operator of SkidEKids.com has settled charges from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after collecting children’s information without parental consent.

The website, SkidEKids.com, has been marketed and advertised as a website similar to Facebook or Myspace but for children, providing for them a safe and educational place on the internet. According to the FTC, Skid-e-kids is a social networking site targeted at children ages 7-14 that allows them to register, create and update profile information, create public posts, upload pictures and videos, and “friend” and send messages to other Skid-e-kids members.

Apparently the website collected personal information from around 5,600 children without acquiring proper and prior parental consent which violated the Commission’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) Rule. The FTC’s complaint also charges the operator, Jones O. Godwin, with making deceptive claims in Skid-e-kids’ privacy policy about the site’s information collection practices. The proposed settlement will bar future violations of COPPA and misrepresentations about the collection, use and disclosure of children’s information.

The FTC’s COPPA Rule requires that website operators notify parents and obtain their consent before they collect, use or disclose personal information from children under 13. The Rule also requires that website operators post a privacy policy that is clear, understandable and complete.

The FTC alleges that the Skid-e-kids’ online privacy policy claimed that the site “requires child users to provide a parent’s valid email address in order to register on the website. We use this information to send the parent a message that can be used to activate the Skid-e-kids account, to notify the parent about our privacy practices, to send the parent communications either about the parent’s and child’s Skid-e-kids accounts or about features of our Web site…”

The complaint alleges that the defendant registered children on the website without collecting a parent’s email address or obtaining permission for their children to participate. Children who registered were able to provide personal information, including their date of birth, email address, first and last name, and city. In addition to violating the COPPA Rule by collecting kids’ personal information without parental permission, the FTC alleged that the Skid-e-kids’ false privacy policy claims violated the FTC Act.

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In addition to barring future violations of COPPA and misrepresentations about the collection and use of children’s information, the settlement order also requires Godwin to destroy information he collected from children in violation of the Rule, and, for a period of time, link to online educational material and retain an online privacy professional or join a Commission-approved safe harbor program to oversee any COPPA-covered website he may run. Finally, the proposed order imposes a $100,000 civil penalty, all but $1,000 of which will be suspended if Godwin provided truthful information about his financial condition and complies with the order’s oversight provision – Source.

While this is a novel idea for children I can’t help but have reservations about any website social media network targeted towards children. The risk we potentially put children’s information in with these types of sites scares me. Not only does this type of site raise a red flag for information getting into criminal hands but also the hands of scammers that may use children’s information to take out credit. Mid-October I wrote of a warning put out by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) that told parents to take notice to their children’s credit reports well before the age of the child being able to use credit to make sure their identity hasn’t been stolen as it is an increasing crime and scam in the United States.

I am in no way shape or form saying that SkidEKids.com would do this sort of action but rather putting out a warning to parents to be wary of the sites your children are using on the internet and to always make sure you kids’ information is safe and secure.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Leave a comment below!

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