'SpongeBob Diner Dash' pulled from App Store after privacy complaints

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The children's game SpongeBob Diner Dash is no longer available in the iOS App Store, hours after the FTC was asked to investigate the companies behind it. The New York Times reports that the non-profit group Center for Digital Democracy asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate both Nickelodeon and mobile-game developer PlayFirst, alleging that the game violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). According to the CDD, the game asks children for personal information despite not notifying parents — a violation of the law — and the organization has also asked the FTC to look into what mechanisms the game uses to identify a given device. According to the Times, Nickelodeon pulled the app voluntarily so it could investigate the complaints.

Privacy for children using mobile devices has been getting significant attention this past year, with an FTC report in February finding that stricter data collection policies were needed to protect children despite laws like COPPA. A second report, unveiled just last week, came to a similar conclusion. "It is clear that this is not an isolated incident," the CDD's executive director Jeff Chester said in a statement. "The Commission needs to step up its enforcement actions and adopt new rules that will address the growing threats to children's privacy in the expanding mobile marketplace."

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