Mobbles wobbles: Kid game developer pulls app after FTC privacy row

Kids' game maker Mobbles has pulled its mobile titles in a preemptive defense against FTC investigation, having been unofficially informed that its software is among 200 titles accused of storing information on child players without parental approval. The FTC confirmed it would begin a probe into kid apps on Monday, but did not specifically name the titles it would be looking at. "We have elected to take our app temporarily offline in order to focus on [privacy] objectives and ways that we can continue to improve on all fronts" Mobbles said in a statement on its site today, claiming not to have yet been approached by the FTC regarding online privacy complaints.

It's the Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that has the FTC – and privacy advocates – hot under the color, with claims that games and other software aimed at young people aren't toeing the line when it comes to data protection. In an FTC survey of 200 different titles, approximately 80-percent failed to show a privacy policy, 59-percent collected personal information for the developer and/or advertisers, and 58-percent showed ads despite just 15-percent of those doing so revealing that they were ad-supported.

Mobbles insists that its games "never stored any location-related date" and that "nor do we give any data to third parties." However, the company confirmed it intended on updating its privacy policy – a new version of which is now online - and for the moment none of its software is available.

"We have been informed by various members of the media that Mobbles has been or will be identified in a filing with the FTC regarding the manner in which it collects, stores and uses consumer information. At this point, however, we have not received any official notice or service of any such filing. Thus it is impossible for us to respond in any intelligent way to allegations that we have neither seen nor analyzed in full. Assuming the media is reporting accurate information, we will review any such allegations with our legal counsel and will be better able to respond following such review. Mobbles is committed to providing our users with the most positive experience possible. We're gamers ourselves and take the privacy of our users extremely seriously. In case that wasn't clear enough, we never stored any location-related data nor do we give any data to third parties. We'll put a clearer privacy policy on our website later today. We are committed to ensuring the safety and protection of our users' privacy, and we have elected to take our app temporarily offline in order to focus on these objectives and ways that we can continue to improve on all fronts. We will always do what we believe is best for our users in the long term, and we thank you, our loyal and valued users, for your understanding" Mobbles

Among the FTC's concerns are apps that contain in-app purchasing which could be abused by younger gamers, apps that use geolocation to identify the position of those players, and titles that gather up information that COPPA cautions against.

Mobbles is unlikely to be the only developer moving to yank software distribution until the investigation is fully explained, and we're expecting to see other app producers move to clarify their position on titles aimed at young people. There's more on the FTC report here.

[via Adweek]