Apple and Google both pulled three dating apps from the App Store and Google Play, respectively, after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission discovered the apps allowed children under the age of 13 to sign up and use the services.
The apps were pulled from the app stores after the FTC sent a warning letter to Ukrainian developer Wildec, which created dating apps Meet24, FastMeet, and Meet4U. The developer was notified that the apps potentially violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC Act’s prohibition against unfair practices.
Thee FTC’s COPPA rule “imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age.”
The Wildec apps collect users’ birthdates, email 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 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, according to the FTC’s warning letter. 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 FTC urged Wildec 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 FTC also issued a consumer alert for parents about the dating apps.
The FTC says updated versions of the apps could one day return, “but only for adults.”