The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a settlement requiring Fortnite developers to pay a total of $520 million in damages for illegally collecting information on children and tricking millions of players into unwanted purchases.
The first of the two cases saw Epic Games agree to pay $275 million in damages for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
As The New York Times reported, a company collected personal data and information from people under the age of 13 who played Fortnite without parental consent.
Epic had also failed to set up a system to verify possible consents, and rejected requests and made it difficult for parents to delete their children’s sensitive data.
Besides the financial penalty, Epic Games was obliged to change the settings of its games to offer the highest level of privacy for children and teens by default, which involves blocking voice and text chat for younger users.
Epic Games creator of the video game Fortnite, to pay a total of $520 million over FTC allegations Epic violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and deployed dark patterns to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases: https://t.co/yHaQx8VXlu
— FTC (@FTC) December 19, 2022
The FTC claims that the default game settings harmed children and teens, and Epic is responsible for matching children and teens with unfamiliar adults to play Fortnite together.
Children and teens were bullied, ridiculed, harassed and exposed to dangerous and psychologically traumatizing situations, such as suicide while playing Fortnite,” reads the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announcement.
The other case involved allegations of manipulative practices in online games. Fortnite was also an example here, in which the interface was said to allow users to make purchases with a single click and without any additional warnings.
This was supposed to lead to a situation in which unwitting players of all ages accidentally or unknowingly spent money.
Officials say it was possible for charges to be made while the game was waking up from sleep mode, and even while the game was loading, and that children repeatedly made unauthorized purchases, thus debiting their parents’ accounts without their knowledge or consent. As a result, Epic has to refund $245 million to customers.