COPPA, FTC Act Violations for Talent Agency

Advertising Law

A talent agency was the target of the 30th Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) action by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) based on allegations it failed to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from child performers and neglected to inform their parents about its collection, use and disclosure practices.

Doing business as Explore Talent, the company marketed itself as a way to find information about auditions, casting calls and other professional opportunities. Interested actors, models and other artists could register with the website to create profiles that included names, email addresses, telephone numbers and mailing addresses. The profiles were publicly available and searchable between 2014 and 2016—even for the more than 100,000 registered users under the age of 13, the FTC said.

Explore Talent’s privacy policy stated that it did not knowingly collect personal information from children under age 13 and that accounts for that age group had to be created by a legal guardian. But according to the FTC, the company did not place any restrictions on users who indicated they were under the age of 13 and did not take steps to verify whether a profile was actually created by an adult.

Instead, the company failed to obtain parental consent to collect and disclose the personal information of those under the age of 13 and neglected to inform parents about its collection, use and disclosure practices, all in violation of COPPA, the FTC alleged.

The company also ignored the FTC Act by misrepresenting that casting directors were interested in the prospective purchasers of premium services or had already chosen them for upcoming roles, the FTC said. For example, one telemarketer for the company told a user that a casting director wanted him for a paid speaking role in the sequel to Jack Reacher, but he had to sign up for a paid membership first, the FTC alleged. When the user reached out to the casting director, he was told the speaking roles had already been cast and the film was not working with Explore Talent.

Pursuant to the consent order, the company will pay $235,000 of a partially suspended $500,000 civil penalty, delete the information it previously collected from those under the age of 13 and comply with COPPA requirements in the future.

To read the complaint and order in FTC v. Prime Sites, Inc., click here.

Why it matters: “Explore Talent collected the personal information of more than 100,000 children, but failed to adhere to the safeguards required by law,” Acting FTC Chair Maureen K. Ohlhausen said in a statement about the action. “Today’s settlement provides strong relief for consumers and will help ensure children are protected going forward.” The action also serves as a warning to websites that COPPA applies not just to child-directed sites but to those of interest to a general audience if they have “actual knowledge” that they are collecting personal information from children under the age of 13.



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