New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood (D.) today announced an agreement with Verizon Communications, Inc., subsidiary Oath (formerly AOL) under which the company will pay $4.95 million to settle allegations that it collected, used, and disclosed the personal information of children without parental consent as part of its auctions of advertising space on websites directed to children under the age of 13.
Such unauthorized collection, use, and disclosure of children’s personal information violated the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which state attorneys general are authorized to enforce.
In addition to the “record” $4.95 million payment, Oath has agreed to establish a comprehensive COPPA compliance program and to establish a procedure for websites selling ad space through its auctions to indicate whether their sites or portions of them are directed to children under 13. The company also has agreed to destroy the data it collected from children, unless it is required to maintain it by law, regulation, or court order.
“AOL documents show that an AOL account manager based in New York intentionally configured at least one of these client’s accounts in a manner that she knew would violate COPPA in order to increase advertising revenue. In addition, AOL documents show that the NY account manager repeatedly represented to at least this client that AOL’s display ad exchange could be used to sell ad space to third-parties in a COPPA compliant manner. As a result of these misstatements, the client used AOL’s display ad exchange to place more than a billion advertisements on COPPA-covered inventory,” the attorney general’s office said in a press release.
In a statement, an Oath spokesperson said, “We are pleased to see this matter resolved and remain wholly committed to protecting children’s privacy online.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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