Senator Jay Rockefeller Introduces Bill to Study How Violent Video Games Affect Children

December 19, 2012 -

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D - West Virginia) has introduced a bill that would have the U.S. National Academy of Sciences study how video games and other media like films and television affect children. The bill would also expand studies already conducted by the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission.

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SpongeBob Diner Dash Yanked From Apple Store After Complaint to FTC

December 18, 2012 -

Nickelodeon has removed the SpongeBob Diner Dash app from Apple's iTunes after advocacy group The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) filed a formal complaint with Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The CDD said that the app starring the popular cartoon icon collected email addresses of children without getting parental consent.

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FTC Report Criticizes Data Collection and Sharing Practices of Kid App Developers

December 11, 2012 -

The Federal Trade Commission released a report on Monday that came to the conclusion that the majority of mobile apps aimed at children collect and transmit data that they shouldn't such as the device being used - and they do not disclose this fact to the parents. According to the report, around 60 percent of 400 popular kids’ apps made for phones and tablets running Android and iOS transmitted information about the device to the app’s developer or to a third party such as an ad network.

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Center for Democracy & Technology Offers Form for Opposing Comments on FTC's Proposed Changes to COPPA

September 21, 2012 -

The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has put up a form that interested parties can sign onto concerning some changes that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has planned for the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

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FTC Urges ITC to Refrain from iOS and Xbox 360 Device Bans

June 7, 2012 -

Florian Mueller, patent law expert and proprietor of the wonderful web site Foss Patents, passed along a note letting us know that the Federal Trade Commission recently sent a letter to the International Trade Commission asking the organization not to ban the sale of the iPhone, iPad or Xbox 360 related to complaints filed by Google.

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FTC Hires Colorado University Law Professor as Privacy Advisor

May 22, 2012 -

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has hired Colorado University Law Professor Paul Ohm to advise the agency of Internet privacy rights and issues. Ohm will take a leave of absence this summer from Colorado University and will begin working at the FTC's Office of Policy Planning as a senior adviser on consumer protection and privacy issues beginning August 27.

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FTC Launches Tech Blog on Wordpress

March 23, 2012 -

"Hello world," begins the first post at the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) new tech blog on Wordpress. The first post is written by Ed Felten, Chief Technologist at the FTC, who goes on to say that the point of the blog is to talk candidly about technology in a way that is "sophisticated enough to be interesting to hard-core techies, but straightforward enough to be accessible to the broad public that knows something about technology but doesn’t qualify as expert." 

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FTC, California AG's Office Address Children's Safety at Digital Kids Conference

March 20, 2012 -

Representatives from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and California's Attorney General's office will address mobile app safety for children at the Digital Kids Conference on Wednesday, April 25 from 3:45 p.m. - 4:45 p.m. (Room 1, Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green Street, Pasadena, CA). Federal Trade Commission Staff Attorney Kenneth H. Abbe and Travis LeBlanc, Special Assistant Attorney General for Technology for the State of California will deliver their remarks on the topic as part of conference's Digital Kids Safety Track.

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Report: Mass Effect 3 Buyer Files FTC Complaint

March 19, 2012 -

While fans angry about the ending to Mass Effect 3 have formed groups and taken to forums, YouTube and other venues to lodge venomous complaints, one user has decided to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau. Of course, that's assuming you believe the post by "El_Spiko" over at the official BioWare forums.

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How an FTC Complaint Helped FrostWire Become Better

October 12, 2011 -

File-sharing software company FrostWire has settled its dispute with the Federal Trade Commission and called the agency's complaint against them as the best bug report the company has ever gotten. The FTC filed a complaint against FrostWire in federal court saying that it was disregarding the privacy of its users by making freshly downloaded files in the program publicly shared when completed by default. But the FrostWire team approached the court case in a way most companies wouldn't.

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iOS Developer Pays $50k FTC Fine

August 15, 2011 -

The iOS app maker responsible for games such as Zombie Duck Hunt, Truth or Dare, and Emily's Dress Up today settled with the Federal Trade Commission for collecting children's personal data in its iPhone and iPod touch apps. Broken Thumbs Apps and its parent company W3 Innovations were targeted by an FTC lawsuit on Friday. Today the company announced a settlement.

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Playdom Pays $3 Million FTC Settlement over Acclaim COPPA Violations

May 14, 2011 -

Disney's wholly-owned social game development studio Playdom has agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission a settlement totaling $3 million for its part in collecting the private information of underage customers. The settlement is related to games operated by Acclaim (which Playdom bought last year) that the FTC said violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The FTC claims that 403,000 children registered on Playdom's general audience sites between 2006 and 2010, with an additional 821,000 signing up for kid-friendly MMO Pony Stars.

During that time period Acclaim apparently illegally collected the email addresses of children and didn't provide the proper amount of parental controls.

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Report: FBI, FTC, 22 AG's Looking into PSN Security Breach

April 28, 2011 -

Kotaku has confirmed that the FBI's cybercrimes unit in San Diego has joined two dozen state attorneys general and possibly the Federal Trade Commission in an investigation of Sony's security breach that exposed millions of users' data to hackers.

"The FBI is aware of the reports concerning the alleged intrusion into the Sony on line game server and we have been in contact with Sony concerning this matter," FBI special agent Darrell Foxworth told Kotaku. "We are presently reviewing the available information in an effort to determine the facts and circumstances concerning this alleged criminal activity."

Attorneys general in 22 states are also looking into the PSN fiasco, demanding answers from Sony and asking the company why it took them o long to warn customers of the potential danger. Kotaku says that the 22 states are sharing information with each other.

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ESA Pleased With FTC Findings Too

April 21, 2011 -

Guess who else is doing the happy dance over the FTC’s recent findings that the video game industry continues to surpass all others when it comes to retail enforcement.

That’s right, it’s the Entertainment Software Association, the industry trade group for video game publishers in the U.S.  Said ESA president Michael Gallagher:

“The ESRB is the gold standard. Our self-regulatory system works and this FTC report validates it as being the best in the entertainment industry.  We have an unparalleled commitment to working with parents, retailers, and stakeholders, and will continue to help ensure that this remarkable level of enforcement remains high.”

“Those who would criticize the industry’s commitments are either ignorant of facts or are actively pursuing a political agenda.”

AE:  Ooh, burn!

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EMA Proud of Retailers for Video Game Ratings Enforcement

April 21, 2011 -

Bo Andersen, President & CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association today applauded the efforts of video game and DVD retailers in enforcing ratings systems and keeping adult material out of the hands of teenagers. Both groups did pretty well in the latest "undercover shop" by the Federal Trade Commission, which seeks to identify the level of ratings enforcement by leading video game, DVD, music retailers and movie theaters. Andersen said,

"[The] EMA is pleased with the leading performance of its members in enforcement of the video game ratings and the significant improvement in enforcement of the DVD ratings. The credit for these improvements goes to the individual retailers who have made ratings enforcement a part of their corporate culture, and in the case of video games, the ESRB and their ESRB Retail Council."

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ESRB Pres Pleased By FTC Secret Shopper Survey

April 20, 2011 -

I know what you’re thinking after reading the FTC’s report that once again, the video game industry is kicking the collective butts of all others when it comes to retail enforcement.

You’re thinking, “I bet ESRB president Patricia Vance is extremely pleased by this news.”

And you’re right.  Said Vance to USA Today:

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FTC Undercover Shopper Survey Gives Highest Marks to Video Game Retailers

April 20, 2011 -

The latest Federal Trade Commission undercover shopper survey found that video game retailers continue to enforce the sale of "M-Rated" games to minors better than any other industry. Overall, sales of R-rated movie tickets, R-rated movie DVDs, unrated DVDs, music CDs carrying a Parental Advisory Label (PAL) that warns of explicit content, and video games rated "M" to minors were on the decline.

"Our undercover shopper survey demonstrates some progress," said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "But more needs to be done."

The FTC recruited 13- to 16-year-olds, unaccompanied by a parent, to attempt to buy media content that was not appropriate for their age groups. The undercover secret shopper program ran from November 2010 to January 2011. Teenagers attempted to buy these products from national and regional chain stores and theaters across the United States.

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Capcom's Smurfs' Village, Zombie Cafe Hit 10 Million Download Mark

March 1, 2011 -

Capcom Mobile announced today that Smurfs' Village and Zombie Cafe have reached a combined total of 10 million downloads on iTunes. This milestone was achieved over four months with the release of Smurfs' Village in November last year, followed by Zombie Cafe in January. Both games have a combined total of 6.5 million monthly active users as well. Smurfs' Village and Zombie Cafe are free-to-play applications that offers social hooks and casual gameplay for players to enjoy. Additional premium content is unlockable through in-app virtual currencies.

Capcom did not disclose how much money has been made off of micro-transactions within the game. Smurfs' Village is of particular interest because it helped spark a Federal Trade Commission investigation into digital purchases after parents complained about their children buying thousands of dollars' worth of smurfberries in Smurf Village.

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FTC to Look Into Free-to-Play

February 23, 2011 -

The Federal Trade Commission revealed on Tuesday that it plans to look into "free to play" after several politicians complained about thousands of dollars in transactions initiated unknowingly by young children. The investigation is the result of a letter sent to the agency by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) complaining about children buying virtual items without their parents' consent (hint: it involves Smurf berries).

FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz responded to Markey that the practice of in-app purchases in iPhone and iPad games "raised concerns" that consumers may not understand the full ramifications of the charges they might face.

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Congressman Markey Wants FTC to Probe App Transactions

February 9, 2011 -

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Ma.) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to take a closer look at the marketing practices of applications on Apple's App store and Google's Android Marketplace. Markey's concerns relate to programs geared towards children that may not adequately inform users of potential charges - particularly micro-transactions.

On Tuesday Markey sent a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Liebowtiz (and copied to Google and Apple), pointing to a story in The Washington Post about how in-app purchases on iPad, iPod and iPhone games such as Smurfs' Village and Tap Zoo have caught some parents off guard. The Children apparently used parents' passwords to buy in-game items instantly.

"I am concerned about how these applications are being promoted and delivered to consumers, particularly with respect to children, who are unlikely to understand the ramifications of in-app purchases," Markey wrote in the letter.

Top Net Neutrality Expert Joins FTC

February 9, 2011 -

Columbia University law school professor, author of the book "The Master Switch," and the man that coined the phrase "net neutrality," will join the Federal Trade Commission as a senior advisor. Tim Wu will take a leave of absence from the university to take up the new post at the FTC. Wu who is considered one of the country's top net neutrality experts, recently wrote "The Master Switch," a book that examines monopolies in the information communications sector. He is also a former chairman of media reform organization Free Press.

"I think there are critical periods in industry formation where there is a strong need for a public voice" Wu said in a statement. "The Internet platform has given rise to new and hard problems of privacy, data retention, deceptive advertising, billing practices, standard-setting and vertical foreclosure just to name a few."

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FTC Chairman Endorses Net Neutrality Plan

December 15, 2010 -

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz says that he supports the net neutrality proposal put together by FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. In an interview with the Huffington Post Leibowitz said the he supports the new proposals, and sees them as the best first step in getting some kind of net neutrality rules in place.

"There's a little disconnect between the reality of net neutrality and the big fight of net neutrality," said Leibowitz, speaking to the critics that believe it is all about government control of the Internet.

The rest of the interview deals with privacy, which the chairman has been vigorously pushing for this month. Read it here.

The FCC votes on net neutrality December 21.

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FTC: Companies Should Do More On Privacy On Their Own

December 13, 2010 -

The Federal Trade Commission says that it wants Internet companies such as Facebook and Google to craft their own solutions to privacy problems, but if they are not capable the agency is ready to do it for them, says its chairman. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz applauded Microsoft for exploring ways to incorporate the agency's recent suggestion for a "Do Not Track" function allowing consumers to opt out of Web tracking.

However, Leibowitz also said that the FTC is not afraid to use its voice and power to publicly shame companies that do not want to allow this functionality to their users.

"The other part of the bully pulpit is — and the commission is not in this position yet — is we can go and call for legislation. And I think many of the companies who want to do the right thing ... would prefer to do it voluntarily," Leibowitz said to POLITICO during a taping of C-SPAN’s "The Communicators."

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ESRB Success in Chart Form

September 16, 2010 -

If you know anyone that thinks that it is easier to get videogames than any other form of media and you don't want to take the time to rattle off a bunch of numbers, then I recommend you look at this simple chart at Ars Technica. This chart shows the percentage of youngsters that have been successful in buying Mature-rated games at retail from 2000 - 2009. That stat line in the chart is contrasted by other stat lines for R-rated movies, music, and DVDs.

What is the shocking conclusion? That video games are harder for children to get than DVDs and music with parental advisory labels. They also have an easier time getting into an R-rated movie, than buying and M-rated game. So where did this data come from? The Federal Trade Commission.

The government - like the State of California - think they can do a better job than what the game industry already does using the ESRB as a guideline, but how can they possibly do better than what the chart shows - according to the FTC?

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Children’s Advocates Call for COPPA Act Reform

July 2, 2010 -

As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) begins a review of its Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the connected world becomes ever more connected, a gaggle of advocacy groups is calling for more stringent protections to protect youngsters.

Comments were offered to the FTC (PDF) by groups such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Children Now and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). The advocates argued that when COPPA was originally passed in 1998, computers were the only means of accessing the Internet. Now, of course, cell phones, videogame machines and even interactive television provide additional ways for children to get online, and “these developments have increased the risks to children’s privacy.”

In a section on videogames, the advocates noted that:

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FTC Backpedals on Newspaper Rescue Plan

June 11, 2010 -

It looks like the folks at the top of the Federal Trade Commission are distancing themselves from the fairly controversial proposal to save the newspaper industry - if the Wall Street Journal is to be believed. The "working paper on reinventing the media" was released on May 24 and widely criticized by most everyone as ludicrous. The report looked at ways to save the newspaper industry by charging fees to news aggregator sites that source newspapers, and taxes on electronics like iPads, laptops and Kindles. Money collected from these and other methods would then be redistributed to traditional media outlets.

So how is the FTC distancing itself from the plan? From the top down. No doubt after seeing a Rasmussen poll that showed a majority of Americans loathed such a plan, the FTC's top man has backpedaled as if he had nothing to do with it at all. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Wednesday, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz called the plan to tax devices "a terrible idea." But tax aside, it seem that the FTCV has not abandoned the idea altogether.

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Rasmussen: Americans Hate FTC Plan to Save Newspapers

June 8, 2010 -

You may recall this story on the Federal Trade Commission's plan to save the floundering newspaper industry with taxes on consumer goods. A poll conducted by Rasmussen finds that Americans wholeheartedly reject such a move by a striking margin. The national telephone poll found that 84 percent of those surveyed oppose a 3 percent tax on monthly cell phone bills, while ten percent support it; 76 percent of Americans oppose a 5 percent tax on consumer electronics like computers, iPads, and other electronic devices to support newspapers, while 16 percent support it.

The survey also found that 74 percent of Americans do not like the idea of taxing Internet web sites like the Drudge Report, Reddit or Digg (news aggregators) to support the newspapers they "get their news from." Finally, 71 percent oppose the creation of a taxpayer funded program to hire young reporters for newspapers around the country.

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First Online Pass Enabled Game in Stores

June 8, 2010 -

The first test of EA's Online Pass begins soon, with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 in stores nationwide. Of course the real test won't begin until first-time buyers dump their shiny new copies of EA's golf game back into retails stores like GameStop and used game buyers either buy it or boycott it. In case you haven't been following EA's Online Pass, it is a serial code based system for Xbox 360 and PS3 sports games from EA Sports that charges used game buyers $10 to access online play.

While the industry and angry consumers await the results of this little experiment, Joystiq's Law of the Game points out that game publishers maybe playing with a fire they can't put out: government regulation. Here's a sample, though there are more points worth reading in the rest of this article:

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Tax on Consumer Electronics Could Help Bail Out Newspapers

June 4, 2010 -

As preposterous as it sounds, you, the consumer, could be tasked with bailing out the newspaper business by way of a tax implemented on electronic devices.

A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) look into “Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism” (PDF, thanks Kotaku) addresses the “challenges faced by journalism in the Internet age.” Noting that “The news is a ‘public good’ in economic terms,” the report adds that “it is often difficult to ensure that producers of public goods are appropriately compensated.”

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MSU Professor Backs California in Upcoming Videogame Law Fight

May 28, 2010 -

In what can only be categorized as "no great shock to our readership," Michigan State University law professor Kevin Saunders will help the state of California when the Supreme Court revisits Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association later this year. Saunders will help co-author an amicus brief to help California’s position when arguing its case before the U.S. Supreme Court during its 2010-11 session, which begins in October. As you probably already know, Saunders testified during the 2005 California State Assembly Judiciary Committee hearings on the issue at the invitation of Leland Yee. His arguments were obviously against the industry and for the law written by Yee.

Saunders' statements on the matter almost sound like the ECA's, EMA’s or the ESA's position:

"Parents need to play an active role in deciding what is appropriate for their children."

No disagreement there. But then he makes it sound as if the law helps to insure that universal truth:

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james_fudgeGod I hate those Transformers movies so much.05/28/2015 - 1:43pm
Andrew EisenDefinitely a contender!05/28/2015 - 1:40pm
E. Zachary KnightTwilight? It made almost as much as the Transformers movies and is absolutely terrible.05/28/2015 - 1:36pm
Andrew EisenDevin Faraci over at Birth.Movies.Death calls the Transformers movies "the worst successful franchise in the history of motion pictures." I was like "oh, come on!" but I realized I couldn't think of a successful franchise that's worse. Can you?05/28/2015 - 1:26pm
Matthew Wilsonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBWlnL6Tr6k part 2 of the witcher history05/28/2015 - 10:54am
Infophile@Wonderkarp. Yeah, that's ads. Some advertisers use a trick to open up an appstore address, which forces the phone to shift over to it. I wish providers would be more diligent about it, even if all they can do is punish offenders after it happens05/28/2015 - 10:33am
MechaCrashFor all your wounded pearl clutching and HOW DARE YOUing, you're sure quick to resort to schoolyard insults like the petulant child you are.05/28/2015 - 10:25am
MechaCrashI wasn't even trying to offend you. I just didn't care if I did, because you're a thin skinned hypocrite who routinely argues in bad faith.05/28/2015 - 10:23am
MechaCrashYeah, smearing everyone with a broad brush is your schtick. And also, I hate you.05/28/2015 - 10:22am
WonderkarpFudge, for some reason sometimes when I access Gamepolitics on my phone, it shoots me over too my app store. I think its the Ads05/28/2015 - 9:58am
WonderkarpI'm not perpetually offended. I'm an regular viewer of South Park. I have a problem with people saying gamergaters are school shooters. That and lets be honest. I dont like MechaRash05/28/2015 - 9:55am
Ivresse@MechaCrash: I'd like to refer you to the words of Stephen Fry: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CGA3QGHW8AARsax.jpg05/28/2015 - 9:43am
Wonderkarpalright Fudge05/28/2015 - 9:27am
MechaCrashWhat good is being one of the perpetually offended if you don't make sure everybody sees just how offended you are?05/28/2015 - 9:02am
james_fudgeYou two can reasonably slug it out in the article in question if you want :)05/28/2015 - 8:59am
MechaCrashI wasn't expecting you to drag it into the shoutbox, either. Just when I think I have you pegged, you prove me only MOSTLY right.05/28/2015 - 8:55am
MechaCrashWhat argument? You made a joke in bad taste. I made a response joke in similar bad taste. And you are going berserk with...okay, not the flavor of HOW DARE YOU I was expecting (I thought you'd No True Scotsman, instead you dodged it entirely).05/28/2015 - 8:52am
Wonderkarpfyi, thats a self made "REDACTED" to make Mr Fudges life a little easier.05/28/2015 - 8:50am
Wonderkarphow is calling somebody out for being a [REDACTED] throwing a Tantrum? Is it cause you cant dispute my argument?05/28/2015 - 8:46am
MechaCrash"Grow a thicker skin," says the person throwing a tantrum that's filling the shoutbox.05/28/2015 - 8:40am
 

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