In brief: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that Apple and Google had removed three dating apps from their app stores after it found they allowed children under the age of 13 to sign up.
The FTC said in a statement that the three apps—Meet24, FastMeet, and Meet4U— are operated by Ukrainian company Wildec LLC. In a recent letter to the firm, the FTC warned that the apps appeared to violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) as well as the FTC Act because they did not prevent users who said they were under 13 from joining.
The COPPA rule prevents companies from collecting data on under 13s without verifiable consent from their parents. The FTC told Wildec it apparently violated COPPA because the company “appear[s] to have actual knowledge that children are using your apps.”
The FTC act “prohibits unfair practices that are likely to cause substantial consumer injury.”
The apps allegedly collected birthdates, email addresses, photographs, and real-time location data, but did not attempt to block children who said they were under 13, despite claiming to prohibit these users in its privacy policies.
The FTC’s warning letter noted that allowing adults to communicate with children on these apps posed a serious security risk, adding that several individuals are reportedly facing criminal charges for allegedly contacting or attempting to contact minors using Wildec’s apps.
Wildec has been urged to “immediately remove” children’s personal information, to seek parental consent before allowing minors access to the apps, and to ensure that all versions comply with COPPA and the FTC Act. The organization has also issued a consumer alert warning parents about the applications, in which it wrote: “it’s possible that updated versions of these apps could appear in the future – but only for adults.”