Regulators Say Social Network Violated Child Privacy Law

New-York-Times-Bits-BlogSkid-e-Kids describes itself as a Facebook for children ages 7 to 14. It allows them to watch “age-appropriate” movies and socialize with their friends, and it stipulates that “parents are in charge.”

Now the company, which is based in Atlanta, has fallen afoul of a federal law designed to protect the digital privacy of children. On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Skid-e-Kids had agreed to settle its charges that it had allowed children under the age of 13 to register on the site without their parents’ consent, which is against the law. According to the F.T.C., the site collected the first and last names of its 5,600 underage users, their dates of birth — even the cities in which they lived.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, requires companies to obtain parental consent before collecting any personal information about a child under 13. The law was enacted over a decade ago; the F.T.C. recently proposed changes to the statute, to reflect advances in smartphone and geolocation technology.

An emotive issue, children’s privacy can be particularly difficult to enforce. Case in point: Despite Facebook’s official policy barring children under 13 from creating accounts, independent studies have repeatedly shown that millions of children lie about their age in order to register for Facebook, and some do it with help from their parents.

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