Epic Games, Creator of Fortnite, to Pay $520 Million Over Children’s Privacy


In the privacy complaint filed on Monday, the F.T.C. said Epic had caused “substantial” injury to children by enabling live voice and text chats by default, and by matching children and teens with adult strangers to play Fortnite.

Children and teenagers had been “bullied, threatened and harassed within Fortnite, including sexually,” the complaint said, adding that some had also been exposed to traumatizing issues like suicide and self-harm through the game. Although Fortnite introduced some relevant privacy and parental controls over the years, regulators said the changes “have not meaningfully alleviated these harms or empowered players to avoid them.”

As part of the proposed settlement, Epic Games is required to adopt high-privacy default settings for children and teens, including turning off live text and voice chats by default for younger users. The company said it had already done so.

This month, Epic Games said it was introducing a new type of account for young users, called “cabined accounts,” in which features like live chat and in-app purchases are disabled by default. The company said it would default players who indicate they are under 13, or the digital age of consent in their countries, to cabined accounts and ask them to provide a parent’s email address before they could gain access to features like live voice chats.

Epic also agreed to pay $245 million to refund consumers over accusations that it used manipulative online practices to trick players of all ages into making unintended purchases. Among other issues, Fortnite’s user interface had a counterintuitive, inconsistent and confusing layout that led users to incur charges with the press of a single button, regulators said in a separate complaint.

Players could be charged while trying to activate the game from sleep mode or while the game was loading a screen, the complaint said. Children ended up racking up charges without their parents’ knowledge. These so-called dark-pattern techniques resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in unwanted charges for users, the agency said.

In a statement, Epic said that, in a fast-moving video game industry, longstanding industry standards were no longer enough to protect players.


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