The New York State Attorney General’s office is “cracking down on a group of kid-focused websites, enforcing a federal law that makes it illegal to track the web browsing habits of children under 13,” WIRED reports.
Tools that track individualized personal identifiers like cookies and IP addresses cant be used on minors.
The popular children’s websites include Viacom’s Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.; Mattel’s Barbie, Fisher-Price, and Hot Wheels; Hasbro’s My Little Pony and Nerf, Jumpstart’s Neopets.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that its office discovered after a two-year investigation that four popular companies’ children’s websites didn’t comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law that “limits marketing to children under 13 and requires website operators to get parental consent before collecting personal information about kids.”
Schneiderman added, “We used to worry about our children wandering into bad neighborhoods, now our children live online. We have to deal with this the same way we deal with street crime.”
WIRED’s Lily Hay Newman writes, “As Schneiderman puts it, it’s ‘open season’ for digital marketers to track adult behavior online and customize ads for individuals based on their browsing. But kids aren’t equipped to understand that aggressive form of marketing. Incidents in which toy companies and wi-fi enabled toys get hacked are troubling enough. The last thing we need is a more industrialized form of commercial tracking, eroding Americans’ privacy from childhood on.”
The four companies were fined a combined total of $835,000 and required to implement changes to make sure their companies comply with COPPA, and contract with third-party companies that comply with COPPA. The companies claimed that they were unaware that the advertising vendors they contracted with “performed some type of persistent monitoring for targeted ads.”
The companies agreed to update their privacy policies to notify parents how their respective sites will comply with COPPA, and to make clear where on the sites parents can report concerns and potential violations.