Roy Smith is on a mission to save mobile game companies from the claws of the feds — specifically, those companies who may be violating the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) without knowing it.
Smith’s AgeCheq COPPA compliance SDK is now open — and free — to all mobile game developers using the Corona Labs 2D game engine. Corona is favored by many independent developers building virtual games.
Although it’s not sexy, Smith’s SDK is crucial for gaming companies in lieu of the Federal Trade Commission’s vowed, yet unrealized, threat in April to begin fining gaming and app developers for violating COPPA. The FTC told VentureBeat that could amount to $16,000 per infraction.
“The SDK is cross-platform and works with iOS, Android, HTML5, and Unity,” Smith told VentureBeat from his home in Eastern Pennsylvania on Tuesday.
Ease of use is crucial if AgeCheq’s software is to be successful, because navigating through age gate guards can create problems, something that developers and players abhor. Smith assured VentureBeat that his new SDK is indeed simple to use.
“Developers can set up an AgeCheq account for free. Then, when they start building it, they’ll have a COPPA compliant game,” Smith said.
Congress’ 1998 COPPA law appeared during the pioneer period of the Internet. As technology has advanced — particularly in the mobile arena — the law has been in danger of becoming less relevant. To keep pace, the feds tweaked it, with new rules going into effect in July 2013.
A brief of the FTC’s COPPA amendment below:
“COPPA mandates that website operators or online providers directed at kids 13 and under obtain verifiable consent from the parents or guardians before disseminating the information. The law says that without the verification, companies are on the hook for any information obtained from children [to] be distributed or sold for marketing or other purposes. The law was formed in the early days of the Internet, and much has changed since then.”
COPPA’s tweaks means that game publishers and others in the mobile sector have to self-enforce the law, making sure that anyone 13 years old or younger isn’t downloading their apps and logging into their game sites.
Smith’s release heralding the new SDK put it this way:
“With AgeCheq, game publishers who may have children under 13 in their audience can easily comply with COPPA privacy regulations by using the SDK to add a few lines of code to their game. Existing games can be updated, tested and re-posted to the app stores within a single day.”
“With over 300,000 developers worldwide and 1.6 billion monthly user sessions, Corona offers independent game developers a powerful cross platform game development toolset,”Smith said.
For a demo, click here.
“These indie game publishers are required to comply with child privacy laws just as the larger developers are, but they do not have the resources to create and legally vet a viable compliance solution,” Smith said.
The wide-open mobile sector has plenty of unknowns, which includes approximately 500 marketing firms, mobile ad networks, virtual gaming outfits, and mobile analytic players all vying for their part of a space that did $17.9 billion in business last year.
Smith just returned from Washington, D.C., and the impending FTC crackdown will likely happen mid-summer. At least that’s what he’s hearing on the grapevine.
“I keep hearing the drums sounding,” Smith said. “It looks like something will happen by July 1.”