Fortnite developer Epic Games has agreed to pay $520 million to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that it violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in multiple ways. The FTC claims that Epic illegally collected personal information from Fortnite players under the age of 13 without parental consent, enabled voice and text chat by default, and exposed teens to “dangerous and psychologically traumatizing issues such as suicide.”
Epic Games creator of the video game Fortnite, to pay a total of $520 million over FTC allegations Epic violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and deployed dark patterns to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases: https://t.co/yHaQx8VXlu
— FTC (@FTC) December 19, 2022
As the Wall Street Journal reports, $275 million of that total is a civil penalty for the COPPA violations, which is the largest in the law’s history. The remaining $245 million are consumer refunds stemming from Epic’s alleged use of “dark patterns,” an emerging term for the tactics that online services use to make it difficult or burdensome to unsubscribe. Epic does not have to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
In a statement, Epic Games said that it accepted the terms of the agreement out of a desire to be on the “forefront of consumer protection.” FTC Chair Lina Khan issued her own statement: “These enforcement actions make clear to businesses that the FTC is cracking down on these unlawful practices,” it reads in part.
Epic has recently taken steps to resolve some of these alleged issues, including introducing a new protected account intended for players under 13, which can’t use chat or buy things without the permission of a parent or guardian. The FTC has made larger moves into the world of gaming as of late, most notably suing to block the proposed Microsoft-Activision Blizzard merger due to anticompetitive concerns. That process is still ongoing.
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