Consumer advocates have filed a complaint against Google for what it deems to be violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and its own Google Play store terms and conditions.
According to NBC News (thanks, GI.biz), a group of 22 consumer advocates – led by the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law School – filed the 102-page complaint on Wednesday, requesting the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate whether the company misled parents by promoting what it deems as inappropriate children’s apps that may violate COPPA, particularly those that require location services to be activated, or those that allow targeted ads.
It also asks the FTC to consider what kind of games qualify as suitable for children, and cites some in-game mechanics – such as Dentist Game for Kids‘ objective which asks the player to give the virtual patient a shot in the back of the throat, or Doctor X & the Urban Heroes‘ objective to cut clothing off an injured patient – as being unsuitable. It also suggests games with "excessive" microtransactions are troublesome, too.
"The business model for the Play Store’s Family section benefits advertisers, developers and Google at the expense of children and parents," said executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Josh Golin. "Google puts its seal of approval on apps that break the law, manipulate kids into watching ads and making purchases."
"[Google takes] these issues very seriously and continues to work hard to remove any content that is inappropriately aimed at children from our platform," said a Google spokesperson in response to the complaint. "Parents want their children to be safe online and we work hard to protect them. Apps in our Designed for Families program have to comply with strict policies on content, privacy, and advertising, and we take action on any policy violations that we find."