Did Ring Pop Contest Use Children's Photos Without Parental Consent?

On Tuesday, several consumers’ rights organizations urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Topps Company’s so-called #RockThatRock contest, which solicited children to submit photos of themselves wearing Ring Pops for a chance to be featured in a music video for the tween band R5. According to consumer rights advocates, Topps may have violated federal law by failing to receive parental consent prior to collecting, using and disseminating children’s personal information.

The contest, which took place during April 2014, encouraged children to upload photos of themselves to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #RockThatRock. The following month, Topps selected photos of 80 winners and published the music video using these photos on its website, Candymania, as well as YouTube.

To date, the music video has been viewed nearly 900,000 times, and Topps has even used clips from the video in television commercials for Ring Pops. Furthermore, the company continues to re-post children’s photos and Facebook names, as well as Twitter and Instagram handles, submitted during the contest on its website and social media platforms.

The consumers’ rights organizations requesting the investigation, however, allege that Topps never notified or obtained advance, verifiable parental consent when collecting children’s personal information, in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Under COPPA, companies are prohibited from collecting, using and disseminating personal information for children ages 13 and younger without prior and verifiable parental consent. The federal law mandates that companies must make “reasonable efforts, taking into account available technology, to ensure the parent of a child receives direct notice of the operator’s practices with regard to the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from children.”

The organizations allege that many of the photos submitted in the contest appear to be of children younger than age 13, but Topps “made no effort” to obtain parental consent prior to using these photos and other personal information. Furthermore, the organizations allege that Topps wrongly assumed consent by claiming in its Terms of Use that entering the contest constituted parental consent, and also buried the link to its Terms of Use at the bottom of its website.

The consumers’ rights organizations leading the proposed investigation include the Center for Digital Democracy, the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and the Consumers Union, among others.

Did your child submit a photo to Ring Pop’s #RockThatRock contest without your consent? If so, you may be able to take part in a class action lawsuit and stop the company from using your child’s (and other children’s) information and photos in the future. For more information, contact us today.