FTC Says Kids Ratted Out by Mickey Mouse

Filed under: In The News

A Disney-owned company has agreed to pay $3 million for violating Federal Trade Commission rules. Credit: Getty Images

Children were ratted out by Mickey Mouse? Donald Duck is a stool pigeon?

Well, maybe not directly, but Atlantic Monthly reports the mouse had his big white glove in a very sticky pie.

A Disney-owned company has agreed to pay $3 million for violating Federal Trade Commission rules and selling children's personal information without their parents' consent to other companies.

The settlement was reached with Playdom, the Internet company who gave the world (whether the world needed them or not) Pony Stars, My Diva and some two dozen other "virtual world" games aimed primarily at children and teenagers.

Atlantic Monthly reports company execs reached the out-of-court settlement after being accused of violating the FTC's Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule [COPPA]. The $3 million is reportedly the largest civil penalty ever paid for violating this rule.

Playdom is owned by Disney Enterprises Inc., a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company. Pony Stars gathered information on more than 800,000 players did between 2006 and 2010, the magazine reports. Another 400,000 kids registered for Playdom's other games websites.

Children provided their ages and email addresses as well as their full names, locations, instant messenger handles and other personal information. According to Atlantic Monthly, company officials held on to all of this information and allowed children to post it on both profile pages and online community forums.

"Let's be clear: Whether you are a virtual world, a social network or any other interactive site that appeals to kids, you owe it to parents and their children to provide proper notice and get proper consent," Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the FTC, says in the agency's complaint.

"It's the law," he adds. "It's the right thing to do. And as today's settlement demonstrates, violating COPPA will not come cheap."

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