The attorney general of New Mexico has brought a lawsuit against a Finnish game developer over its treatment of children’s data.
In the complaint, Hector Balderas accuses Rovio Entertainment of illegally collecting the data of children under the age of 13 who play the puzzle video game Angry Birds.
Rovio is further accused of sending the children’s data to multiple third-party marketing companies that analyze, repackage, resell and otherwise use the information to sell targeted advertising to those children.
The suit states: “Rovio monetizes children by surreptitiously exfiltrating their personal information while they play the Angry Birds Gaming Apps and then using that personal information for commercial exploitation.”
Developers of child-directed games are required under the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to obtain parental consent before collecting any personal information from players. Creators whose games are targeted at a wide age range must still take action to ensure that data belonging to users under the age of 13 is not collected.
“The State’s complaint alleges that Rovio has deliberately attempted to turn a blind eye to its enormous child audience, while simultaneously marketing the Angry Birds games to kids through movies, lunch boxes, kids’ meals, and more,” wrote the New Mexico attorney general’s office in a statement released Wednesday.
New Mexico is seeking an injunction to prohibit Rovio’s data collection practices. The state is also pursuing civil penalties and restitution from the Finnish game developer.
“Parents must have the power to protect their children and determine who can have access to their child’s personal data, and New Mexican parents are being misled about what information is being collected from their children,” said Balderas.
“This company must follow the law, and we will always hold companies accountable that risk the safety of children.”
Angry Birds is a simplistic game in which cartoon birds are launched from a giant slingshot to knock down structures erected by green cartoon pigs.
Since the game series was launched in 2009, its 35 spin-off games have been downloaded more than 4.5 billion times collectively, making Angry Birds the most downloaded freemium game series of all time.