FTC settles for $1m in fan website COPPA complaint

Artist Arena has agreed to pay $1m after the FTC accused the fan website firm of illegally collecting data on underage users.

Artist Arena creates fan websites for artists including Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Rihanna. Calling itself "the expert in captivating fans", it also managed to gain the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) after allegations were made that the firm illegally collected information about minors.

artist arena settles one million court case coppa ftc

The company is a division of the Warner Music Group after being purchased by the corporation in 2010.

In a complaint filed in a New York district court on Tuesday, the FTC accused Artist Arena of failing to obtain parental consent before collecting the names and email addresses of children, according to Reuters.

Artist Arena maintains websites RihannaNow.com, SelenaGomez.com, BieberFever.com and DemiLovatoFanClub.net . As part of the registration process, users have to submit their date of birth, email address and name. The FTC claimed that as the site knew the child's age, the company knowingly ignored regulation and did not notify their parents.

FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell said that the fan website company has agreed to settle the case for $1 million, pending approval by a judge.

Artist Arena allegedly collected information from over 101,000 children aged 12 and under, according to the FTC complaint. Under America's 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), websites have to comply with FTC rules on users that are under the age of thirteen. Specifically, any website that requests information from minors must have the permission of parents, a privacy policy must be in place, and a set of data collection and deletion rules must be followed.

"These were fan sites that knew that a very substantial percentage of users were 12 or under," said David C. Vladeck, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, the New York Times reports. "There is really no excuse for violations like these."

The Federal Trade Commission is currently in the process of updating COPPA's rules to place further restrictions on data collection by websites targeted at young audiences. The act is controversial -- as some believe it impacts on freedom of speech -- and many websites refuse to accept underage users due to the additional paperwork and checks required.

This post originally appeared on sister site CNET.