SpongeBob disappears from app store after privacy criticism

Anyone wanting to download the SpongeBob Diner Dash game from Apple's iTunes app store today is out of luck.

Nickelodeon has removed the app from the store after an advocacy group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging the game violated children's online privacy rights by collecting their e-mail addresses without parents' permission.

According to the Center for Digital Democracy, which filed the complaint earlier today, cable network Nickelodeon and mobile game-maker PlayFirst are misleadingly marketing the game and are violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

SpongeBob Diner Dash is a free app … Read more

Privacy watchdogs aren't happy about Facebook's site changes

Facebook has incurred the wrath of privacy groups because of proposed policy changes it announced last week.

The executive directors of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy penned a letter (pdf) to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to withdraw changes that they say would impact the privacy of the social network's 1 billion users and break its previous settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission.

The battle began when Facebook announced a proposal to overhaul its system last week, saying that it had outgrown its old model. The two groups say there are … Read more

McDonald's, General Mills accused of collecting kids' data

The debate over personal data on the Internet and how it is used is always heated, but it becomes even more so when it involves children.

Nearly two dozen children advocacy groups are reportedly teaming up this week to file at least five separate complaints with the Federal Trade Commission against some very large global corporations, such as McDonald's and General Mills, which heavily depend upon business from kids and their parents.

Specifically, the Web sites in question in the complaints are,,,,, and

Groups such as … Read more

RIAA CEO Cary Sherman walks into tech 'lion's den'

NEW YORK -- No one hooted or jeered when Cary Sherman took the stage today at the Personal Democracy Forum 2012.

That's worth noting, because Sherman is CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group of the top four recording companies, and because the forum crowd was full of politically minded techies that -- it's safe to say -- feel some antipathy for the RIAA. OK, some of these people downright hate the RIAA.

All you have to do to measure the degree of animosity for the RIAA is read the user comments of any … Read more

Anti-SOPA, PIPA lawmakers want Internet Bill of Rights

The two lawmakers who spearheaded a protest in January against controversial antipiracy legislation said today that they want the country to adopt an Internet Bill of Rights.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said today at the Personal Democracy Forum 2012 in New York that the country needs a way to guarantee citizens their Internet freedoms.

"What we need is a way to measure how we're going to ensure the voice of [Internet] networks is protected," Wyden said during an interview the two lawmakers gave to Andrew Rasiej, an entrepreneur and founder of the … Read more

Advocacy group flip-flops twice over CISPA surveillance bill

news analysis Politicians behind a surveillance bill that would let Internet companies open their networks to the U.S. government briefly found a new friend this week: a non-profit group known for its privacy advocacy.

Until yesterday, opposition to the CISPA legislation appeared to be growing, with Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and House Democrats raising new concerns. A petition opposing the bill, also known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, had garnered nearly 800,000 signatures.

Then the Center for Democracy and Technology, a well-known advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., defected from the expanding anti-CISPA … Read more

Al Gore with Sean Parker at SXSW: 'Occupy democracy!'

AUSTIN, Texas--Former U.S. vice president Al Gore and Facebook's founding president Sean Parker argued passionately today that online communities must use the powerful tools at their disposal to save American democracy.

At South by Southwest (SXSW) here, Gore and Parker took the stage to tell an adoring crowd of several thousand that though they should be proud of the mass Internet activism that derailed the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), there is still a huge amount of work to be done if Americans want to keep special interests from perpetually forcing their agendas down society's throat.

Fortunately, … Read more

Groups push feds for video game age restrictions

Video game aficionados might have to enter a credit card or find another way to verify their age before playing a networked game, thanks to a new push from advocacy groups who say they want to protect minors from in-game advertising messages.

In-game marketing has become so advanced that it "allows advertisers to track game users" and detect if people who are exposed to certain ads eventually use or buy the advertised product, a coalition including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and U.S. PIRG told federal … Read more

Consumer groups urge block of Google-AdMob deal

Two consumer groups have added their objections to Google's proposed acquisition of mobile advertising network AdMob, saying the deal would be anticompetitive and cause privacy concerns.

The Federal Trade Commission has already signaled that it wants to take a closer look at the $750 million deal, which was announced in November. AdMob runs an ad network across mobile sites and applications, and critics such as Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Digital Democracy are concerned that the company will give Google a big advantage in extending its dominant share of the search advertising market into the fast-growing mobile space.… Read more

Keeping Uncle Sam from spying on citizens

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of articles discussing how people in the tech industry are working with or around federal and state governments.

During the first Gulf War, Greg Nojeim went to Washington National Airport to observe Arab Americans being pulled out of lines and put through security checks that weren't required of other passengers. The evidence he gathered was used by his employer, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, to sue Pan Am World Airways on allegations of racial profiling.

Now an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), he's still fighting … Read more