If you were hoping to keep the kids quiet over the holidays with a SpongeBob game, you're all outta luck. Nickelodeon has had to pull SpongeBob Diner Dash from the Apple App Store over complaints that it violates children's online privacy rights.

An advocacy group has complained to the Federal Trade Commission in the US that the game is collecting children's e-mail addresses without parental permission, reports the New York Times. The game asks for email addresses — but no other personal information — so that Nickelodeon can spam childhood inboxes with newsletters.

That is, however, not necessarily in accordance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), because the game does not provide "notice to parents or obtain prior parental consent". Because COPPA only applies to children under 13, though, there's room here for Nickelodeon to worm its way out by arguing the game is intended for older kids.

Whatever the outcome of the complaint, the incident serves as a welcome reminder of children's online privacy. Often time we get so caught up in our own privacy worries that it's easy to forget about the younger generation. Let's face it: the sale of your photos doesn't matter as much as a kid's privacy, and it wouldn't do us any ham to remember that more often. [NYT]

Image by JD Hancock under Creative Commons license