Consumer Watchdog

FTC orders EdTech company to stop harvesting kids’ data for advertising

Edmodo, a California-based EdTech company, allegedly misled parents and teachers when it came to collecting children's data.

Keeping student data safe needs to be a priority for everyone.

Last week, the Department of Justice proposed an order on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission against Edmodo, an educational technology platform designed to allow teachers to share materials and host virtual classes. The company allegedly violated COPPA – the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act – by harvesting children’s data without getting parent consent, and using it for advertising. 

According to the FTC, Edmodo deceived schools about what data the company was actually collecting on students. The platform gathered names, email addresses, dates of birth and phone numbers, in addition to special ID numbers that track what individual users do online in order to target them with ads – a secondary purpose that has nothing to do with education.

Edmodo tried to outsource all the legal responsibilities that come with collecting children’s data onto the schools themselves. Under COPPA, any website or app geared at children under 13 must notify parents about what data the platform is going to collect, and get parental consent before collecting or using young users’ data at all. Edmodo told schools that complying with COPPA was on them, while not telling schools what data the platform would collect.

Edmodo shut down late last year after the FTC opened its investigation, and the new order puts in place rules the company will have to follow if it chooses to open back up, including banning the company outright from harvesting student data to sell to advertisers. 

The proposed order is consistent with an FTC policy statement released in May 2022, warning companies against forcing parents and schools to provide data that’s unnecessary for participating in online education.

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