Epic Gamesdeveloper and distributor of the popular video game Fortnite, will have to pay 520 million dollars for the crimes of violation of privacy and unwanted charges in minors. The company has illegally obtained the personal data of millions of players, which has led to an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and its subsequent fine.
As explained in a statement, the Commission has punished Epic Games to pay 275 million for violating Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA, for its acronym in English) and another 245 million dollars that they will have to return to users who made unwanted charges due to the default settings of the game, which they will now have to change. Is the largest fine of its kind that the CFC has imposed in its history on a video game company and that it will go directly to the US Treasury.
Fortnite, one of the games with the most active users in the world (estimated to be 80 million per month), used illicit methods, such as the so-called ‘dark patterns’ (an overlapping programming pattern that simulated the background of the real game, but actually actually redirected to shopping sites), with which he deceived “a millions of players to make unintentional purchases», accuse from the Commission.
“Protecting the public, and especially children, from online invasions of privacy and shadowy employers is one of the Commission’s top priorities, and these enforcement measures leave it clear to the companies the CFC is cracking down on these illegal practices», warns Lina M. Khan, president of the Commission.
The change of the default options is another of the big changes that Epic Games will have to impose on its new players, something that has been pursued for years.
Back in 2017, Epic Games employees urged the company to change the default settings to require users to opt out of voice chat, citing concerns about the impact on children in particular. Despite this and the reports that the children had been harassed, including sexually, while playing, the company resisted turning off the default settings. And although it finally added a button that allows users to disable voice chat, Epic made it difficult for users to find it, according to the complaint.
This fine can mean a before and after not only for Epic Games, but also for companies that manufacture and distribute similar massively multiplayer video games, often without taking privacy issues and care for minors seriously.