Artist Arena will pay a £1m civil penalty to settle charges that it illegally gathered the personal information of children on four fan sites it operates – those for Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, and Demi Lovato. The Federal Trade Commission claims that the company collected information like the names, birth dates, email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses of over 100,000 children under the age of 13 and did so without the consent of parents. This directly violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
The FTC claimed that Artist Arena, which is a division of Warner Music Group that manages a wide range of artist fan clubs, knowingly allowed children under the age of 13, the cutoff age for COPPA, to sign up as users to the sites and never notified parents. The company has since removed the ability for children that young to register as members. According to Advisen, it has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.
The settlement comes as the FTC seeks to update certain aspects of COPPA, a law which is over ten years old. As new technologies arise such as mobile apps and facial network software, the amount of companies affected by the law are bound to increase. This comes with mixed reactions from the online community with some complaining that the proposed updates are unworkable and could be counterproductive. Nevertheless, as more and more children grow up in the digital age, companies which target them will need to ensure they are compliant with COPPA or face hefty fines.