The FTC in December fined EPIC games, maker of the ubiquitous Fortnite, more than half a billion dollars for deceptive practices relating to data gathering and consent from children. This fine is the largest the FTC has ever levied, and dwarfs a $171M kids' privacy fine against YouTube last year for violations of the same law. The big difference seems to be use of "dark patterns."
Why It Matters
Although "dark patterns" sounds like some kind of hypnotic practice, it boils down to 21st-century practices for hiding the ball online. For example, some "dark patterns" involve deceptive disclosures about what a company is collecting, or what fees might be charged, and some involve creating a difficult and confusing online path to cancel a purchase or subscription. These practices can be informed today by extensive data collection and analysis (where consumers click first, for example), which makes them more sophisticated and arguably more nefarious. That is especially true in services dealing with children. The FTC as well as several states are signaling that kids' privacy online will be an increasingly important area in years to come.
We continue to urge companies with online businesses to be clear and transparent (and truthful) in disclosing their privacy practices. The same is true for sales terms: if it's not free, don't try to present it that way. State laws now require that you let consumers opt out of certain profiling and sale of their data, or to limit its use for advertising purposes. Be sure you are aware of these new restrictions and comply with them. And when dealing with children online, be doubly cautious.