Privacy Groups Tells FTC That Topps’ Ring Pop Contest Violated COPPA

On December 9, 2014, a coalition of privacy groups asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and take enforcement action against the Topps Company for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”).

The complaint, which was prepared for ten groups by Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation, centers around and a social media campaign to promote Ring Pops, a candy targeted at kids. The complaint states that Topps encouraged kids to post photos of themselves wearing a Ring Pop in its #RockThatRock contest. Winners’ photos were included in a video made by the tween band R5. The complaint further states that a number of the photos used by Topps in the video are clearly from kids under 13.

The privacy groups claim that Topps violated  the COPPA rules by collecting photographs of young children, even though the FTC specifically includes photographs within the definition of “personal information” requiring parental notice and collection due to the privacy and safety concerns. And also, the company used social media to collect and post children’s personal information from which Topps reaps commercial benefits.

The groups’ complaint said that Topps also violated COPPA by failing to post its children’s privacy policy in a prominent manner, failing to provide a complete and understandable privacy policy, conditioning a child’s participation in the contest on disclosing more information than was reasonably necessary, and retaining children’s personal information for longer than reasonably necessary. Topps also used information it collected like Twitter “handles” to contact the kids without parental notification.

This action is a strong reminder to marketers that they always needs to be cognizant of COPPA’s requirements when collecting information from minors. We will continue to monitor this to see what action, if any, is taken by the FTC.

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