App collected kids' info, N.J. AG says

Nick Rees Jun. 7, 2012, 6:32am


NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in federal court alleging that a mobile app developer collected children's personal information and transmitted it to a third-party company without parental consent.

The suit names the Los Angeles-based 24x7digital LLC, which develops and operates the "TeachMe" series of iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch apps. It includes "TeachMe: Toddler," "TeachMe: Kindergarten," "TeachMe: 1st Grade," and "TeachMe: 2nd Grade."

The TeachMe apps are promoted as having a "simple and intuitive" interface that "allows children to play without help from an adult," the state's complaint says. The apps are among the top-selling applications in Apple's App Store's education category.

TeachMe encourages children to provide their first and last names, as well as a picture of themselves, when they create their player profiles. The apps, however, allegedly transmit this personal information, as well as a unique device identification number, to a third-party analytics company.

By collecting and transmitting this personal information without notification of the practice on its website or consent from parents, the state alleges, 24x7 is in violation of the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

"Mobile devices can capture and transmit a wealth of personal information about users, including their identities and even their geographic location," Chiesa said. "When we find that companies are using this ability to transmit information about children without their parents' knowledge or consent, we will take immediate action. Due to the broad capabilities of these devices and the potential for abuse, we are proactively investigating mobile apps to ensure their compliance with privacy and consumer protection laws."

The lawsuit is the first filed by the division pursuant to COPPA and is the first filed as part of an ongoing initiative against internet privacy violations or acts of cyber fraud.

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