Yelp reached a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the violation of child privacy law. The company had enabled kids under 13 (some even 9 and under reportedly) to sign up for its service, collecting their email addresses with parental consent. This apparently went on from 2009 to 2013.
Yelp paid a reported $450,000 fine.
According to ComputerWorld, the FTC brought the complaint against Yelp on Tuesday, saying it had violated "a number of rules, including the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act".
The company blamed the issue on a bug. Yelp's VP of Communications and Public Affairs, Vince Sollitto, shared this statement on the company's blog:
Yelp recently reached a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a bug in our mobile registration process that allowed certain users to register with any birth date when it was supposed to disallow registrations from individuals under 13 (birthdates on Yelp are optional in the first place, so users are always free to register without one).
The good news is that only about 0.02% of users who actually completed Yelp’s registration process during this time period provided an underage birth date, and we have good reason to believe that many of them were actually adults. Regardless, we don’t want any ambiguity when it comes to our users. When this problem was brought to our attention, we fixed it immediately and closed the affected users’ accounts.
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. We’re glad to have been able to cooperate with the FTC to get to a quick resolution and look forward to continuing our efforts to protect our users.
The settlement follows others from Google and Apple related to those companies enabling children to make in-app purchases without parental consent. Amazon has also been dealing with a similar situation.
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