Washington, DC - The staff of the Federal Trade Commission sent letters to two foreign companies that market electronic devices and apps that appear to collect geolocation data from children, warning that the companies may be in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.
The letters were sent to China-based Gator Group Co., Ltd., and Sweden-based Tinitell, Inc., which both provide online services. Gator Group advertises an app and a device called the Kids GPS Gator Watch, which it markets as a “child’s first cell phone.” Tinitell has also marketed an app that works with a mobile phone worn like a watch, which is also designed for children. Although Tinitell has stopped selling the devices, they will continue to operate through September 2018. Copies of the letters were also sent to the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, which make the apps available to consumers in their stores.
The FTC’s COPPA Rule requires companies collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 to post clear privacy policies and to notify parents and get their consent before collecting, using or sharing personal information from a child.
In its letters to the two companies, the FTC noted that even though they are based outside the United States, foreign companies are required to comply with COPPA when their services are directed to children in the United States or they knowingly collect information from U.S.-based children.
The online services offered by both companies appear to be directed to children and to collect precise geolocation information from children. The letters note that a review of both companies’ services reveal that they do not appear to provide direct notice of their collection practices and do not seek verifiable parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information as required by COPPA.
The letters encourage the companies to review their online services, policies and procedures to ensure they are in compliance with COPPA.