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Mattel among companies fined for tracking data about children

Barbie dolls
Barbie dolls, a Mattel product, are displayed in a Wal-Mart store in Robinson Township, Pa., in January 2014.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

The New York state attorney general announced settlements Tuesday with Mattel, Viacom, Hasbro and JumpStart Games to stop them from using or allowing tracking technology on their popular children’s websites. 

The settlements require El Segundo-based Mattel, Viacom and JumpStart to pay penalties totaling $835,000 following a two-year investigation into violations of the 1998 federal law that prohibits unauthorized collection of children’s personal information on websites directed at users under 13. Hasbro won’t pay a penalty because it was enrolled in a Federal Trade Commission-approved online-privacy program that had some problems, according to the attorney general’s office. 

All four companies allowed tracking technology such as cookies on their websites in violation of the law, New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman said. Such technology can be used by marketers and advertisers to target potential customers. 

“The way the law is structured, the companies have the primary obligation to police their sites,” Schneiderman said. “When we notified them, they took immediate action.” 

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Their websites include Mattel’s Barbie, Hot Wheels and American Girl; Viacom’s Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon; JumpStart’s Neopets; and Hasbro’s My Little Pony, Littlest Pet Shop and Nerf. 

Mattel said it takes online privacy and security seriously. 

“Any time we become aware of a question about whether a Mattel-operated website is in full compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or other laws, we take prompt action to investigate and, if necessary, remedy the situation and look for additional controls to avoid a re-occurrence,” spokesman Alex Clark said. 

Hasbro said it cooperated with investigators and will closely monitor companies working on its behalf. 

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Viacom and JumpStart didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment. 

All four companies signed agreements to regularly scan their children’s websites to screen advertisers’ or others’ data-collection practices to ensure legal compliance and update their privacy policies. Penalties are $500,000 for Viacom, $250,000 for Mattel and $85,000 for JumpStart. 

 


UPDATES:

2:35 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information.

This article was originally published at 11:45 a.m.


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