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Published: Wed, September 14, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Viacom, toy makers to stop online child tracker

Viacom, toy makers to stop online child tracker

The probe, which Schneiderman said is the first of its kind in the USA, covered websites 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, a virtual pet community it purchased from Viacom in 2014. "They will also undertake significant reforms that will finally give parents the peace of mind they deserve when their children go online", said Schneiderman. The legislation explicitly allows state attorneys general to enforce the law, which is why NY state is a party here.

The State Attorney General's Office announced the findings after a two-year investigation. Four companies that own some of the most popular children's websites are taking immediate action to better protect our kids. COPPA, the Federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, makes it illegal for websites geared toward kids under the age of 13 to collect children's personal information without first getting a parent's consent. They released this full statement: "At Hasbro, we are deeply committed to protecting the privacy of our audiences and delivering a safe, secure and enjoyable experience online".

Hasbro says it cooperated with investigators, will closely monitor companies working on its behalf and that it is rolling out a stricter online privacy protection policy.

"Now children live online and we have to police the internet as we seek to police our streets", Schneiderman said. The websites are owned by Viacom, Mattel, Jumpstart and Hasbro.

"You track people so you can market to them", he said at a news conference.

The four companies will pay a combined total of $835,000 in fines, and agreed to reform measures to ensure that they comply with COPPA in the future and only work with third-party companies that obey that law.

Schneiderman began his investigation after discovering that websites operated by the companies enabled marketers to track so-called persistent identifiers, such as cookies and IP addresses, that can be used to recognize a specific user over time and across websites, according to the statement.

Tracking adults is legal, he said, "pretty much open season" for advertisers.

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