Justin, Demi, Selena, Rihanna - and COPPA
It's not likely we'll succumb to Bieber Fever. We're of a generation more susceptible to the Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu. But a company that ran official fan websites for pop stars may be feeling the effects of an FTC law enforcement action alleging violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and COPPA Rule.
The defendant, Artist Arena, operated authorized sites for Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and the mononymous recording artist Rihanna. (It is, too, a word. Ask Cher or Fabio.) Visitors to BieberFever.com, DemiLovatoFanClub.net, SelenaGomez.com, or RihannaNow.com could join fan clubs and subscribe to online newsletters. Fan club members also had access to social networking functions, like creating personal profiles, posting on walls, or "friending" other members. Of course, to take advantage of those features, people had to provide personal information.
The details of the registration process varied depending on the site, so you'll want to read the complaint for the specifics. But the 25-words-or-less summary is that Artist Arena allegedly collected kids' names, addresses, email addresses, birthdates, gender and other info without properly notifying parents and getting their consent. According to the complaint, the company violated COPPA by knowingly registering over 25,000 kids under 13 and collected and maintained personal information from almost 75,000 other kids under 13 who started the sign-up process, but didn't finish it.
What about Artist Arena's promises that it wouldn't collect children's personal information or activate kids' registrations without parental consent? The FTC challenged those claims as false.
The settlement imposes a $1 million civil penalty, bars future COPPA violations, and requires the company to delete the information collected illegally.
Looking for specifics on COPPA compliance? Visit the BCP Business Center's Children's Privacy page.