Fan sites for stars settle FTC privacy charges

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NEW YORK -- The operator of fan websites for pop stars Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and Demi Lovato agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty to settle federal charges that the sites had illegally collected personal information about thousands of young children, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

In a complaint, the FTC alleged that Artist Arena, the sites' operator, had violated a children's online privacy rule by collecting personal details -- such as the names, email addresses, street addresses and cell phone numbers -- of about 101,000 children aged 12 or younger without their parents' permission.

The law, called the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, requires website operators to notify parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information about children younger than 13.

The sites are BieberFever.com, SelenaGomez.com, RihannaNow.com and DemiLovatoFanClub.net, which is no longer in operation. The agency did not accuse the pop stars themselves of any wrongdoing.

At a New York conference on children's marketing Wednesday, FTC member Edith Ramirez said the settlement still needs to be ratified in court.

As part of the registration process, the four fan sites asked users to submit personal details, including their birth dates, that would enable members to create online profiles, post messages and sign up for newsletters about the pop stars, the complaint said. Because the sites therefore knew the children's ages, the FTC charged that the company had knowingly collected information and failed to properly notify their parents.

"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. "There is really no excuse for violations like these."

Artist Arena, a division of Warner Music Group that manages artist fan clubs, neither admitted nor denied the agency's allegations. Warner first invested in Artist Arena in 2007 and bought the company in 2010. Artist Arena spokesman James Steven declined to comment. The fan sites no longer allow children under 13 to register as members.

The proposed settlement comes at a time when the agency is preparing to extensively strengthen the children's online privacy protection rule for the first time since its introduction more than a decade ago.

In an effort to keep pace with innovations such as mobile apps and facial-recognition technology, the agency has proposed widening both the kinds of data about children that would require parental consent and the kinds of operators -- such as advertising networks or data miners -- whose data-collection activities could be subject to the rule.

Suspension Trainer Devices

Fitness Anywhere LLC of San Francisco is recalling about 40,000 TRX Suspension Trainer Devices because the strap length-adjustment buckles can break, posing a fall hazard.

This recall involves "Professional" (P1) and "Tactical" (T1) TRX Suspension Trainer devices manufactured between January 2006 and July 2007.

They were sold at health and fitness stores nationwide and online at www.FitnessAnywhere.com from January 2006 through December 2009 for about $150 to $200.

Return authorization is required prior to returning the units. For more information, contact Fitness Anywhere toll-free at (888) 221-7417 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT or visit www.trxtraining.com.

Wood Cleaner

Cabot Stains, a division of Valspar Corp., of Newburyport, Mass., is recalling about 17,500 units of its wood cleaner and 10,900 units of its wood brightener because the spray pump used for both products can lose its seal, causing the product to leak and cause burning or other serious injuries .

The back panel label contains UPC codes 080351810503 on the Wood Cleaner bottles and 080351810497 on the Wood Brightener bottles.

Contact Cabot toll-free at (877) 755-3336 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week, or log on to www.cabotstain.com/recall

businessnews

Go to www.post-gazette.com/business for Consumer Product Safety Commission breaking news and all recent recalls.


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