Pop­u­lar chil­dren’s web­sites tracked their ac­tiv­i­ties

Vi­a­com, Mat­tel, Has­bro among com­pa­nies cited in fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Joseph Spec­tor @Gan­net­tAl­bany USA TO­DAY Net­work

Com­pa­nies that op­er­ate pop­u­lar web­sites for kids, such as nickjr.com and bar­bie .com, agreed to a $835,000 set­tle­ment af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion found the sites were en­abled with track­ing tech­nol­ogy.

New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric 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.

The agree­ment in­cludes the fine and up­grades to the com­pa­nies’ web­sites. Vi­a­com will pay $500,000, Mat­tel $250,000 and Jump­Start $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 also will have to re­port their ef­forts to Sch­nei­der­man’s of­fice.

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

Spec­tor re­ports for Gan­nett’s Albany, N.Y., bu­reau.

DREW ANGERER, GETTY IM­AGES

New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Sch­nei­der­man on Tues­day an­nounced the re­sults of “Op­er­a­tion Child Tracker.”

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