Nick: SpongeBob App Squares With Privacy

WASHINGTON — Nickelodeon last week said it had vetted its “SpongeBob Diner Dash” mobile game in the wake of a complaint and said the application does not collect personally identifiable information in violation of federal law.

A complaint to the Federal Trade Commission by the Center for Digital Democracy had claimed the app violated the Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting personal data without informing parents it was doing so.

“After an initial investigation and thorough review of our SpongeBob Diner Dash mobile application, we can confirm that no names, email addresses or other personally identifiable information were collected, and, therefore, we believe that no violation of COPPA occurred,” Nick said in a statement. “The optional email prompt to receive a newsletter was a template function from the developer that was never operational in this app, and no email addresses or personally identifiable information were collected.”

The FTC last week updated its guidelines, explicitly putting mobile apps under the rule’s purview, though by Nickelodeon’s reckoning, the app would not run afoul of either the old or new regulations. COPPA violations are punishable by five-figure fines per instance.

The Viacom-owned programmer also said the game’s prompt for a player to enter his or her name is to allow for saving of an individual game in progress and resides locally on the device.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.