Group says Nickelodeon app violates kids' privacy

SpongeBob Diner Dash collects personal information from children in violation of U.S. law, the complaint says

Smartphone app SpongeBob Diner Dash violates U.S. law by collecting a "wide range" of personal information from children, including full names and email addresses, according to a complaint filed by the Center for Digital Democracy, an advocacy group.

The CDD complaint, filed with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, accuses television network Nickelodeon and mobile game-maker PlayFirst of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by using the game to collect personal information from kids and by failing to provide an adequate description of the personal information the game collects and uses.

Nickelodeon and PlayFirst engage in deceptive acts by representing in the privacy disclosure on the Apple App Store that the app's "data collection is in accordance with applicable law, such as COPPA," CDD said in its complaint.

"When the leading children's entertainment [network] thumbs its nose at protecting kids' privacy, it reveals a cynical and callous attitude toward reaping the great financial rewards from marketing to kids by deliberately disregarding the kids online privacy law," Jeffrey Chester, CDD's executive director said by email.

Neither Nickelodeon nor PlayFirst responded immediately to email messages seeking comments on the CDD complaint.

This is the second COPPA complaint CDD has filed with the FTC within a week. Last Tuesday, CDD filed a complaint against popular mobile children's game Mobbles, saying the game collects personal information from children without providing notice to parents.

CDD's two complaints follow an FTC report, released a week ago, saying that many mobile apps aimed at children collect and share personal data without notifying parents, potentially violating COPPA.

"Given last week's FTC mobile app report and this case, it's clear kids' data is at risk online," Chester said. "It is clear that this is not an isolated incident."

The CDD complaint asked the FTC to investigate the apps' data collection and privacy notice practices, including its use of mobile marketing technologies such as unique device identifiers and device tokens, which enable companies to send custom messages to individual children.

SpongeBob Diner Dash is a so-called freemium game, which can be initially downloaded for free, but is designed to encourage users to buy virtual coins that can be spent on items such as shoes that make SpongeBob walk faster, or a frying pan that makes the food cook faster.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesU.S. Federal Trade CommissionMobile gamesregulationPlayFirstCenter for Digital DemocracygovernmentinternetprivacyNickelodeonJeffrey Chestersecuritygames

More about AppleFederal Trade CommissionFTCIDG

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Grant Gross

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place