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USA: CARU finds Firefly Games in violation of children's privacy obligations

BBB National Programs, Inc., announced, on 2 August 2022, that the Children's Advertising Review Unit ('CARU'), had found Firefly Games Inc. in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 ('COPPA') and CARU's Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Advertising and for Children's Online Privacy Protection ('the Guidelines'). In particular, BBB National Programs outlined that this finding related to the LOL Surprise! Room Makeover app and that CARU had found that, given factors such as the app's child-directed subject matter as well as the fact that the app had some adult users, it could be determined that this had a 'mixed audience' and was hence subject to COPPA and the Guidelines.

Moreover, CARU uncovered inconsistencies between Firefly Games' main privacy policy and the privacy policy of the app in question, which were also not consistent with Firefly Games' actual practices. For example, CARU established that the main privacy policy does not address the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information from users under the age of 13, even though the app's privacy policy stated that it collects and uses children's data. Furthermore, CARU added that the two privacy policies conflict in areas such as cookies, web beacons, and geolocation data, among other things, which also conflicted with Firefly Games' actual practices. As such, CARU decided that, due to these inconsistencies and Firefly Games' failure to accurately state their practices, the latter had violated COPPA.

Additionally, CARU also determined that Firefly Games had violated the Guidelines, which make it clear that advertisers must not manipulate or deceive children. For example, CARU found that ads excessively interfered with gameplay, required users to download and install unnecessary apps, and provided unclear and inconspicuous methods for children to exit the ads, while such ads were also found to be inappropriate for children.

Thus, CARU recommended that Firefly Games take corrective actions, including providing clear and understandable notice of its practices relating to the use and collection of children's information and providing a COPPA-compliant means of obtaining verifiable parental consent, among others.

You can read the announcement here.