Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nickelodeon Issues Statement Insisting Their "SpongeBob SquarePants"-Themed "SpongeBob Diner Dash" iOS Game App Is Safe To Use And Doesn't Collect Kids' Data!

The official PC Magazine website,, is reporting the Nickelodeon News that, after Nickelodeon decided to remove the "SpongeBob SquarePants" based "SpongeBob Diner Dash" iOS game app, made by mobile game-maker/developer PlayFirst, from Apple's iTunes app store after a US advocacy group called Center for Digital Democracy contacted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Nickelodeon has released a statement insisting and confirming that their "SpongeBob Diner Dash" app doesn't collect information from children inappropriately:
Nickelodeon: SpongeBob App Safe, Does Not Collect Kids' Data

Nickelodeon said today that its SpongeBob Diner Dash app did not collect personally identifiable information about its users, and is therefore not in violation of a federal law meant to prevent the unauthorized collection of data about kids.

"After an initial investigation and thorough review of our SpongeBob Diner Dash mobile application, we can confirm that no names, email addresses or other personally identifiable information were collected, and, therefore, we believe that no violation of COPPA occurred," a spokesman said in a statement.

Nickelodeon removed the SpongeBob Diner Dash app from the App Store earlier this week after the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that accused Nickelodeon and developer PlayFirst of deceptive marketing and violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

COPPA bans online services from collecting information from children under the age of 13 without parental consent. CDD said that the SpongeBob Diner Dash game "asks children to provide a wide range of personal information, including full name, email address, and other online contact information, without providing notice to parents or obtaining prior parental consent." The app also does not adequately explain what information is collected, CDD said.

According to Nickelodeon, however, "the optional email prompt to receive a newsletter was a template function from the developer that was never operational in this app, and no email addresses or personally identifiable information were collected."

The app does ask players to supply a name, which can be used to chart progress. Nickelodeon said the names are stored locally on the device and are not captured or sent to any server, in compliance with COPPA. The company said that on-screen alerts about the app's new levels or features are within the current COPPA guidelines.

"Nickelodeon has long prided itself as being a leader in COPPA compliance, and we are looking forward to maintaining that leadership position in the industry as the FTC unveils its updated guidelines," the company concluded.

As of Wednesday afternoon, SpongeBob Diner Dash had not returned to the App Store, but a spokesman said it must go through Apple's App Store approval process again. Those who previously downloaded the app should still be able to play.

Nickelodeon's statement, meanwhile, comes the same day that the FTC unveiled updates to COPPA intended to bring it in line with 2012 digital realities. The law was originally crafted in 1998 - before Facebook, smartphones, and Twitter - and the agency has been working since 2010 to modernize it.

Earlier this month, meanwhile, the FTC released a report that found app makers are failing to provide parents with adequate information about how their apps collect and distribute information about children. Mobile apps are siphoning an "alarming" amount of data about kids without disclosure, the FTC said last week.