Microsoft will pay $20 million to settle U.S. charges of illegally collecting children’s data

A man walks past a Microsoft sign outside the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for a company conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco in 2015. Microsoft will pay $20 million to settle charges that it illegally collected data from children.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Microsoft will pay a fine of $20 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it illegally collected and retained the data of children who signed up to use its Xbox video game console.

The agency charged that Microsoft gathered the data without notifying parents or obtaining their consent, and that it also illegally held on to the data. Those actions violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the FTC stated.

In a blog post, Microsoft corporate vice president for Xbox Dave McCarthy outlined additional steps the company is now taking to improve its age verification systems and to ensure that parents are involved in the creation of child accounts for the service. These mostly concern efforts to improve age verification technology and to educate children and parents about privacy issues.


McCarthy also said the company had identified and fixed a technical glitch that failed to delete child accounts in cases where the account creation process never finished. Microsoft policy was to hold that data no longer than 14 days in order to allow players to pick up account creation where they left off if they were interrupted.

The settlement must be approved by a federal court before it can go into effect, the FTC said.

Regulators said Microsoft’s ownership of Activision could curb competition in the $200-billion-plus gaming market by limiting rivals’ access to games.

Dec. 8, 2022