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US authority suspects Angry Birds maker of violating child privacy

New Mexico's attorney general has accused the Finnish company of "commercially exploiting" children.

Angry Birds 1
File photo of the Angry Birds mobile application game. Image: AOP

The Attorney General's office in the US state of New Mexico has launched a lawsuit against Rovio, maker of the hugely popular mobile game Angry Birds, accusing the Finnish company of "commercially exploiting" children.

The suit alleges that the company "knowingly collects personal information" from children under the age of 13 and sells that data to third party marketing companies, which is then used to target advertising back at the children.

"Parents must have the power to protect their children and determine who can have access to their child’s personal data," New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement. "This company must follow the law, and we will always hold companies accountable that risk the safety of children."

The suit was filed under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (or "COPPA"), which requires that developers of games directed at children must obtain parental consent before collecting any personal information from the players. Even if the game is targeted at a wider audience, the developer must still take steps to ensure children's data is not collected.

The AG's office further contends that Rovio uses the gaming apps to "aggressively" target children for financial gain through the sale of both virtual and physical goods.

Balderas has asked the court for a permanent injunction against Rovio to prevent future violations as well as requesting the company pay damages and compensation on behalf of residents of the state of New Mexico.

Rovio's Head of Communications, Lotta Backlund, told Yle News that the company disagrees with the New Mexico Attorney General's assessment and will "vigorously defend" the allegations.

"We want to create a safe and responsible gaming environment for all our players," Backlund said. "We are not knowingly collecting personal information from children under the age of 13 or knowingly sending such information to any third party for targeted advertising purposes."

Angry Birds was first released in 2009 and has since been downloaded over 4.5 billion times.

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