US Fines Microsoft $20m Over Child Data Violations

Microsoft will pay $20 million to settle government charges that it collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent, officials said on Monday. This charges were brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

A building with offices belonging to Microsoft is seen in Chevy Chase, Maryland, January 18, 2023. – Microsoft on January 18, 2023 said it would layoff 10,000 employees in the coming months as the economic downturn continues to punish US tech giants. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

The allegations state that Microsoft collected personal information from children under the age of 13 who signed up for its Xbox gaming system without parental consent and retained this data, violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

COPPA is a crucial law designed to protect children’s privacy online. It mandates that online services and websites targeted at children under the age of 13 must inform parents about the collection of personal information and obtain verifiable parental consent before using such data.

The FTC claimed that from 2015 to 2020, Microsoft gathered personal data from underage children who registered for its Xbox gaming system without obtaining the required parental consent. To create an account, users were required to provide their first and last names, email addresses, and dates of birth. This collection of data without parental permission was a clear violation of the COPPA law, designed to safeguard children’s online privacy.

Samuel Levine, the head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, emphasized that the proposed settlement aimed to enhance privacy protections for children on the Xbox platform. The FTC’s order seeks to limit the information that Microsoft can collect and retain about underage users and make it easier for parents to safeguard their children’s privacy. However, the settlement is subject to approval by a federal court before it can be enforced.

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As part of the settlement, Microsoft is required to take specific actions to strengthen privacy protections for child users of the Xbox system. These measures includes developing a new identity and age validation process to ensure age-appropriate experiences and comply with the FTC’s order. By implementing these safeguards, Microsoft aims to demonstrate its commitment to protecting the privacy of underage users.

Chidalu Glory

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