Justin Bieber fan website operator sued for gathering children's info

Suit claims site violates federal law safeguarding minors online

Published On: Oct 03 2012 01:42:48 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 03 2012 08:12:04 PM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

It's enough to make pop star Justin Bieber break out into a "Bieber Fever," and not the good kind.

The operator of a portfolio of unofficial fan sites dedicated to celebrities like Justin Bieber (i.e. BieberFever.com), Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, is being sued for illegally obtaining personal information.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court accused website operator Artist Arena of gathering personal information of more than 100,000 members younger than 13 without their parents' consent. The data includes full names, email addresses, birth dates and cellphone numbers. The suit claims that violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act safeguarding minors younger than 13.

Arena allows members to create profiles enabling them to interact with other users, and fans were reportedly required to provide personal details when signing up.

That policy was amended on March 8, and now users are urged not to provide sensitive information.

Channel 4 crime analyst and safety expert Ken Jefferson explains why it may be difficult to win a case against Arena.

"The company would be in trouble because they're doing it on their own free will," Jefferson said. "I'm certain there are terms of agreement that they have to sign off on, and there's probably a clause in there."

Channel 4 checked the terms of use, and under the paragraph that talks about information people submit, it says they do so at their own risk.

Jefferson urges parents to talk to their children about what's off limits when it comes to information they put out online.

"If there's a child living in the home with accessibility to a computer, they need to be monitored," Jefferson said. "The parents need to make sure that they know what's going on. They know what they're submitting, they know what's being asked of them."

The lawsuit is seeking $16,000 in damages for each violation, as well as an injunction against site operations.

Arena currently only runs BieberFever.com, which hypes a yearly membership fee of $99, as well as plum access to presale tickets to Biebers' shows.