The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has asked Artist Arena, the operator of fan websites for music stars Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez, to pay $1m to resolve claims that it illegally collected personal data on children.
The US trade watchdog alleged that the website operator violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by illegally gathering personal information from children of below 13 years of age without acquiring consent from their parents.
FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said marketers need to know that even a bad case of Bieber Fever doesn't excuse their legal obligation to get parental consent before collecting personal information from children.
"The FTC is in the process of updating the COPPA Rule to ensure that it continues to protect kids growing up in the digital age," Leibowitz said.
Artist Arena's fan websites that allowed children to register to join a fan club, create profiles and post on members' walls as well as subscribe for fan newsletters include www.RihannaNow.com, www.DemiLovatoFanClub.net, www.BeiberFever.com, and www.SelenaGomez.com.
FTC alleged that Artist Arena wrongly claimed that it would not collect personal information of children ahead of parental consent and that it will not be activating a child's registration prior to parental consent.
The agency filed in its complaint that Artist Arena deliberately registered over 25,000 children under age 13 and collected and preserved personal information from about 75,000 additional children who commenced, however had not completed the registration procedure.
As part of the registration procedure, the website operator collected children's names, addresses, email addresses, birthdates, gender and other data without appropriately informing parents or attaining their approval.