Yelp pays $450,000 fine to settle FTC child privacy violation

Yelp has agreed to pay a $450,000 fine to settle Federal Trade Commission charges, according to the federal agency.

Yelp’s fine is the latest in the FTC’s crackdown on children’s privacy violations in mobile apps. The agency has gone after Apple, Amazon and Google for instances when children allegedly rung up charges as part of in-app purchases.  

In Yelp’s case, between 2009 and 2013, the company asked users registering for its mobile application for their date of birth. A few thousand people gave ages showing that they were under 13, according to the FTC.

Yelp not only didn’t block those people from continuing to the site but it collected data such as e-mails, addresses and locations about those people. The FTC said that the company violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, Rule, which prohibits collecting data on children under 13. The FTC also said that Yelp failed to sufficiently test its technology.

In addition to the fine, Yelp must delete information it collected from those users, “except in cases where the company can prove to the FTC that the consumers were actually older than 13,” the FTC said. 

In its statement, Yelp attributed the problem to a glitch in its mobile app, which it has fixed, and said that about .02 percent of those who registered during this period did so with a birthdate that indicated they were under 13. The company, which doesn’t require a birthdate to register, believes most of those people are adults. Still it deleted the affected accounts.

The company took a light-hearted tone in its statement:

Yelp doesn’t promote itself as a place for children, and we certainly don’t expect or encourage them to write reviews about their plumbers, dentists, or latest gastronomic discoveries.

Above:  Outside of Yelp’s San Francisco headquarters. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

 

 

 

 

 

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