On Monday, 6th May 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that Apple and Google have removed three dating apps from their app stores. This was following an observation by the FTC that the app allowed children under 13 years old to sign up.
FTC attorney Lis Weintraub Schifferle wrote a parent advisory note where she stated that Meet24, FastMeet and Meet4U allowed underage children to sign up to the dating sites. The Ukrainian companies belong to the same parent company, Wildec. The note added that they violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the FTC act.
The FTC had written a letter to Wildec at the beginning of May to inform them of the violation. They told them the apps did not prevent users who clearly state they are under 13 from signing up and using the app. The commission found out that users as young as 12 years old were able to join the dating apps.
The apps will normally ask for a birthday, email address and photos at the point of creating the account. However, the app did not block out younger users, and people less than 13 could easily access and use the apps. They also collected real-time location data. This has made it easy for some adult users to contact minors through the app.
No kids on dating apps
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) needs app developers to get consent from parents before getting information from children under 13 years of age. FTC alleges that the company has the knowledge that children are using dating apps.
The FTC has since asked Wildec to immediately remove the personal information of children from the app. The commission has also issued warning to parents to monitor their wards’ phones and consider parental control on app downloads on their phones.
Earlier in the year, the UK government started to look into laws that require age verification checks for dating app users. This was following a media report of more than 30 cases of child r**e linked to dating apps like Grindr and Tinder since 2015.
Meanwhile in the US last year, a bunch of consumer groups filed complaints regarding the way tech and social media companies like Google gather data on kids and market services and apps to them.