Four toy companies have just agree to pay nearly $1 million in fines because they have allowed third-party vendors to track the internet habits of children without the approval of their parents. This four companies included Hasbro and Mattel as well as Viacom and JumpStart, the latter two also agreeing to pay fined totaling $835,000.
This is the culmination of the two-year “Operation Child Tracker” probe which actually found the companies had violated the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This act of Congress passed in 1998 with the intention of protecting children from the use of “behavioral” advertising.
Collectively, the four companies are behind some of the biggest toy brands in the industry today, names like: American Girl, Barbie, My Little Pony, and SpongeBob Squarepants.
In a written statement, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman comments, “Federal law demands that children are off-limits to the prying eyes of advertisers. 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.”
Schneiderman goes on to say that the probe is the first of its kind in the US but relates to the way websites collect information and appropriate online advertisements. This includes, he says, browsing history and demographics which are used, of course, to tailor ads to users.
In response, Hasbro spokeswoman Julie Duffy reports that the Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based company has cooperated fully with the ongoing investigation and is presently committed to protecting its website audience’s privacy.
Duffy adds, “We will be more closely vetting and monitoring companies that work on our behalf. We are rolling out a new, stricter online privacy protection policy for our partners, and enacting new protocols and technology to scan our digital properties for any cookies, widgets or other applications that may violate our policy.”