A US games developer is facing a $250,000 fine for leaving customer data exposed to hackers.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that it had agreed to a settlement with social gaming firm RockYou in a case which left some 32 million user accounts, including some minors, vulnerable to hackers.
The commission said that the cash fine would be part of a larger settlement over charges that the firm violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal information from at least 190,000 children under 13 years of age without parental consent.
According to the FTC, RockYou's gaming and media sharing services required users to create an account which included submitting an e-mail address and password.
The Commission believes that the company did not take appropriate measures to secure the data, leaving the data exposed to third-party attackers.
"RockYou's practice of initially collecting email account passwords and storing them as clear text, even temporarily, created the risk of unauthorised access to such passwords and, therefore, to users' email accounts," the FTC said in a complaint filed in Federal Court.
"Moreover, it is commonly known that users often reuse passwords for different accounts. Indeed, RockYou's practice of asking users to submit their email password and then asking them to create a RockYou password may have increased the likelihood that users would use the same password for both accounts."
In addition to the cash penalty, the settlement requires the company to undergo regular security audits for the next 20 years and maintain stronger security controls and clear terms of service.
The settlement comes as the FTC is looking to tighten the screws on firms who illegally collect and share data on underage users. The company in 2011 proposed stronger regulations on how user data can be collected and when parents must be notified.
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