Viacom, Mattel to Stop Third-Party Tracking of Children's Online Activities

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Viacom, Mattel and other companies will stop allowing third parties to track children's online activities in a deal with New York's top cop over data pulled from popular websites directed at kids under 13 years old.

The companies, including Hasbro and JumpStart Games, violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, which bars companies from collecting or using personal information of young children without parental approval, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr. Schneiderman began probing the industry two years ago after discovering that websites operated by the companies enabled third-party 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.

The probe, which Mr. Schneiderman said is the first of its kind in the U.S., 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. The companies agreed to pay a total of $835,000 as part of the agreement.

"Federal law demands that children are off-limits to the prying eyes of advertisers," Mr. Schneiderman said in the statement. The investigation "revealed that some of our nation's biggest companies failed to protect kids' privacy and shield them from illegal online tracking."

The companies agreed to put in place reforms to protect children from such tracking in the future, including regular electronic scans to monitor for third-party tracking technologies and increased vetting of third-party data collection practices, Mr. Schneiderman said.

-- Bloomberg News

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