Children's websites tracked by vendors

"Operation Child Tracker" $835,000 Settlement

ALBANY -- Some of nation’s most popular kids’ websites on Tuesday agreed to a $835,000 settlement and to change its practices after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman found the sites were enabled with technology that tracked kids’ activities on the web for marketing purposes.

Schneiderman announced his office reached settlements with Viacom, Mattel, Hasbro and JumpStart Games after an investigation into the companies’ found violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The investigation, called “Operation Child Tracker,” found that websites operated by the companies enabled third-party vendors, such as marketing and advertising companies, to track children’s online activity -- which violated federal law.

The companies run websites associated with Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon owned by Viacom, as well as popular brands owned by Mattel and Hasbro -- such as Barbie, Hot Wheels and American Girl.

“Federal law demands that children are off-limits to the prying eyes of advertisers,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“Operation Child Tracker revealed that some of our nation’s biggest companies failed to protect kids’ privacy and shield them from illegal online tracking."

The agreement includes the fine and upgrades to the companies' websites.

Viacom will pay $500,000; Mattel will pay $250,000; and JumpStart will pay $85,000.   Hasbro will not pay a penalty because it is part of a "safe harbor program" through the Federal Trade Commission that already requires more disclosures of web activity, Schneiderman said.

The companies said they will conduct regular scans to monitor for third-party tracking technology and take other measures to ensure their sites are safe, Schneiderman said.

The companies will also have to report their efforts to Schneiderman's office.

Federal law prohibits the unauthorized collection of children’s personal information on websites aimed at children under age 13.


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