Fortnite developer hit with record $520m fine; collecting kids' data
19th December 2022

Fortnite developer Epic is hit with record $520m fine for collecting kids’ data without parents’ consent, tricking them into making in-game purchases and exposing them to suicide chat

  • North Carolina-based Epic Games will pay millions to settle allegations that the company took advantage of vulnerable children by collecting their data 
  • The company was also accused of psychological trauma by exploiting their young audience by subjecting them to bullying, threats, harassment and suicide
  • Fortnite reportedly used live voice and text function in suicide chat room

The wildly popular online video game Fortnite has been hit with a massive $520m fine for collecting kids’ data without parents’ consent, tricking them into making unwanted in-game purchases and exposing them to a suicide chat.

Epic Games, the North Carolina company, will pay millions – $275m for collecting data and privacy issues, and $245m for in-item purchases- to settle allegations that the company took advantage of vulnerable children, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Monday.

The gaming company was also accused of psychological trauma by exploiting their young audience to threats of bullying, harassment and suicide which saw sinister messages sent to youngsters using the game’s live chat function.

Fortnite fanatics focuses on fighting and killing off zombie- like creatures in order to save the world. The game is played with a total of 100 players, who all have the same goal, with many players easily becoming addicted even obsessed. 

The wildly popular online video game Fortnite has been hit with a massive $520m fine for collecting kids’ data without parents’ consent and tricking them into making unwanted in-game purchases and exposing them to a suicide chat

Fortnite fanatics focuses on fighting and killing off zombie- like creatures in order to save the world. The game is played with a total of 100 players, who all have the same goal with many players easily becoming addicted even obsessed

For example, one Australian teenager dropped out of school to become a professional Fortnite player and apparently earns more money than his dad, but that appears to be a rare case.

According to the FTC, players of all ages were deceived into a phenomenon known as ‘dark patterns,’ when users are made to purchase online credits. The FTC explained this operation to be  ‘counterintuitive, inconsistent, and confusing’ button configuration, that allegedly earns Epic hundreds of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges to consumer, NBC News reported. 

Epic did not confirm or deny the allegations that were being made they did agree to revise some of their terms – privacy policies, chat and text functions, and how it charges game users – as part of the settlement. 

The company whose CEO is Tim Sweeney was most recently valued at $32 billion.  In 2018, ‘Fornite’ alone made $5.5 billion, and $3.7 billion in 2019 with nearly 400 million users worldwide, according to documents reviewed by the games site IGN, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, in part, that Epic ‘will be required to change its default settings, return millions to consumers, and pay a record-breaking penalty for its privacy abuses.’

 ‘Epic put children and teens at risk through its lax privacy practices, and cost consumers millions in illegal charges through its use of dark patterns’ Levine said. 

Fortnite was released by Epic Games in 2017. The games are available in three different versions – Fortnite Battle Royale, Fortnite: Save the World, and Fortnite Creative.

Fortnite Battle Royale became a cultural phenomenon drawing a stunning 125 million players in less than a year and earning hundreds of millions of dollars per month. 

Tim Sweeney, EPIC CEO  (pictured) holds the ‘Special Award’ granted by BAFTA at The London on June 12, 2019 in West Hollywood, California

Fortnite Battle Royale became a cultural phenomenon drawing a stunning 125 million players in less than a year and earning hundreds of millions of dollars per month.

Regarding the FTC settlement, Epic stated on their website that they have been making changes – moving beyond long-standing industry practices – in order to meet the expectations of their players and regulators, and be a guide to others in the industry

Regarding the FTC settlement, Epic stated on their website that they have been making changes – moving beyond long-standing industry practices – in order to meet the expectations of their players and regulators, and be a guide to others in the industry.

‘No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here. The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation, where player expectations are high and new ideas are paramount. Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate,’ the company said. 

The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.

‘No developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here,’ it said in part. ‘The video game industry is a place of fast-moving innovation, where player expectations are high and new ideas are paramount. Statutes written decades ago don’t specify how gaming ecosystems should operate. The laws have not changed, but their application has evolved and long-standing industry practices are no longer enough. We accepted this agreement because we want Epic to be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players.’

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