On February 5, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced its most recent Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) case against Explore Talent, an online service marketed to aspiring actors and models. According to the FTC’s complaint, Explore Talent provided a free platform for consumers to find information about upcoming auditions, casting calls and other opportunities. The company also offered a monthly fee-based “pro” service that promised to provide consumers with access to specific opportunities. Users who registered online were asked to input a host of personal information including full name, email, telephone number, mailing address and photo; they also were asked to provide their eye color, hair color, body type, measurements, gender, ethnicity, age range and birth date.
The FTC alleges that Explore Talent collected the same range of personal information from users who indicated they were under age 13 as from other users, and made no attempts to provide COPPA-required notice or obtain parental consent before collecting such information. Once registered on ExploreTalent.com, all profiles, including children’s, became publicly visible, and registered adults were able to “friend” and exchange direct private messages with registered children. The FTC alleges that, between 2014 and 2016, more than 100,000 children registered on ExploreTalent.com. As part of the settlement, Explore Talent agreed to (1) pay a $500,000 civil penalty (which was suspended upon payment of $235,000); (2) comply with COPPA in the future; and (3) delete the information it previously collected from children.