Center for Digital Democracy Calls on FTC to Investigate SpongeBob App for COPPA Violations
According to the advocacy group, SpongeBob Diner Dash violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. The game, which is aimed at kids, is an iPhone and iPad app that can be found in the "Kids Games" section of the App Store, and though it claims to comply with COPPA, the CDD says that it does not.
The objective of the game is for children to help SpongeBob "seat, serve, and satisfy all kinds of fishy customers in five colorful Bikini Bottom restaurants," run by the greedy, selfish Mr. Krabs from the show. SpongeBob Diner Dash is a "freemium" game, which can be initially downloaded for free, but is designed to encourage users to buy virtual "coins" that can be spent on items such as shoes that make SpongeBob walk faster, or a frying pan that makes the food cook faster. Children are also prompted to spend more money to buy upgraded versions of the game.The filing, which asks that the Federal Trade Commission investigate how the offending app collects data, comes just a week after the FTC released a report on the privacy practices of apps aimed at children. Following the report, the FTC began a non-public investigation to discover if app developers that produce games for children are violating Federal law.
The SpongeBob Diner Dash game asks children to provide a wide range of personal information, including full name, email address, and other online contact information, without providing notice to parents or obtaining prior parental consent, as required by the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Nor does the app provide an adequate description of the personal information it collects or how it is used.
SpongeBob Diner Dash and SpongeBob Diner Dash Deluxe, the offending games, have currently been removed from the U.S. App Store.