A decision by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman to penalize Mattel Inc., Viacom Inc., Hasbro Inc. and Jumpstart Games Inc. for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act has earned high praise from the team at educational building toy company Click-A-Brick, who say children’s privacy online is of the utmost importance.
According to the New York attorney general’s office, the companies allowed third-party vendors to collect and use the personal information of children who visited websites owned by the companies, including sites for Viacom’s Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon brands; Mattel’s Barbie, Hot Wheels, and American Girl toys; Hasbro’s My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop, and Nerf; and JumpStart’s Neopets.
The children’s information was collected and tracked without parental permission and involves the use of behavioral advertisements, which use identifiers like website cookies and IP addresses to track people’s movement online so they persistently see advertisements about products or services they have searched for regardless of what websites they are visiting.
After a years-long investigation, the four companies have agreed to pay penalties equaling $835,000, with Viacom paying the most, having been penalized $500,000, according to the attorney general’s office. In addition to the fines, all four companies have also agreed to step up their efforts to protect the privacy of the children who visit their brands’ websites.
“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. My office remains committed to protecting children online and will continue our investigation to hold accountable those who violate the law by tracking children.”
The move to not only beef up protection of children’s privacy online, but to penalize the publicize the companies allowing it to happen is a step in the right direction, the team at educational building toy company Click-A-Brick says.
“We’re glad to see the New York attorney general taking this action both as parents and as a toy company,” Click-A-Brick co-founder Jason Smith said. “As a parent, I would never want my child’s activities tracked online. Adults are fair game for advertisers, but I think we can all agree that children should be left alone. And on the other hand, as atoy company co-owner, I like this as a way to help the public reestablish trust with toy brands. When major players in an industry are caught playing dirty, it can affect the entire marketplace and that can trickle down to the little guys. When decisive action is taken and those big players are made to pay for their mistakes, it maintains the legitimacy of the entire market.”
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