UPDATE: Epic Games has released a statement of its own regarding the settlement with FTC. It partially reads, “No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here. The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation, where player expectations are high and new ideas are paramount. Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate.”
“The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.” You can view the entire statement on Epic Games website.
Original article: The Federal Trade Commission has settled an agreement with Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, regarding privacy violations and deceptive interfaces that violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
As a result of the allegations, Epic Games is to pay a $275 million penalty for violating the COPPA rule, and another $245 million is to be used to refund customers victim to the “dark patterns and billing practices” outlined by FTC.
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Noted as a “first-of-its-kind provision” by the FTC, Epic Games is also going to be required to integrate strong privacy default settings for children and teens. Just recently, Epic launched Cabined Accounts for those under the age of 13, and these accounts limit multiplayer communications, in-game purchases, and the ability to install games that aren’t by Epic.
In September, Epic also implemented high-privacy default settings, with Fortnite settings defaulting to the highest privacy option for players under the age of 18, and multiplayer communications defaulting to ‘Nobody’.
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FTC Chair, Lina M. Khan, stated that, “As our complaints note, Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teenagers and children.”
Adding to that, “This proposed order sends a message to all online providers that collecting children’s personal information without parental consent will not be tolerated,” says associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta.
Fortnite is a free-to-play battle royale that has oft been criticised for it’s in game purchases, with dozens upon dozens of cosmetics and emotes available to purchase and collect. FTC alleges that Epic has put children and teenagers at risk through its privacy practices, and has illegally cost its consumers millions.
The director of FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Samuel Levine, shares, “Under the proposed orders announced today, the company will be required to change its default settings, return millions to consumers, and pay a record-breaking penalty for its privacy abuses.”