Three dating apps have been removed from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Google Play Store following allegations by the Federal Trade Commission that the apps allowed children as young as 12 to access them and appeared to be in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC Act.
In a recent letter, the FTC warned Ukraine-based Wildec, which operates the apps Meet24, FastMeet, and Meet4U, that the three dating apps appeared to be in violation of COPPA and possibly the FTC Act’s prohibition against unfair practices. The apps have been removed from the app stores until they address the alleged violations outlined by the FTC.
The FTC’s COPPA Rule requires companies collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 to post clear privacy policies and to notify parents and get their verifiable consent before collecting, using, or sharing personal information from a child.
The Wildec apps collect users’ birthdates, e-mail addresses, photographs, and real-time location data.
While the three apps claimed in their privacy policies to prohibit users under the age of 13, the FTC warning letter said the apps failed to block users who indicated they were under 13 from using the apps and from being contacted by other users of the apps. In its review of the apps, FTC staff found users who indicated they were as young as 12.
The letter also noted that allowing adult users to communicate with children poses a serious health and safety risk. Several individuals have reportedly faced criminal charges for allegedly contacting or attempting to contact minors using Wildec’s apps, the letter added.
The letter further noted that Wildec appeared to be aware that children under 13 were using all three apps and, given this, was obligated to comply with COPPA’s requirements.
The FTC urged the company to immediately remove personal information from children on the three apps, to seek parental consent before allowing minors to access the apps, and to ensure that all versions of the apps comply with COPPA as well as the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair practices that are likely to cause substantial consumer injury.
The Commission also issued a consumer alert for parents about the dating apps. The vote on the warning letter was 5-0.