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What We Can Learn from Companies' COPPA Settlements

Keeping our kids safe from online tracking and profiling.

Few of us understand exactly all the ways advertisers and other third parties track us on the web, collecting lots of information that can be used to profile and target us with specific products and offers. But most of us sense that it's happening, as the unpurchased sweater or travel destination we've researched follows us around, showing up in our news feeds or next to the blogs we read.

This tracking and targeting, however, is not supposed to happen to kids. In fact, COPPA prohibits it, unless a parent has consented. Unfortunately, too many children's sites are still, either purposefully or inadvertently, allowing third parties to collect information about the kids visiting their sites.

Good news for kids and families: This week, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced settlements with major kids' companies running a number of popular children's websites (such as Nick Jr., Hot Wheels, and My Little Pony). These sites had allowed third-party advertisers and others to track and profile children, but they have all agreed to take steps to make sure this doesn't happen in the future. Common Sense applauded Schneiderman and the companies for working together to create kids' sites that respect their privacy.

These settlements highlight that protecting kids online is an ongoing task, continually requiring attention. Common Sense has long advocated for companies to build in "privacy by design": having designers, engineers, and CEOs make it a priority that their business models not be based on tracking and profiling kids. We hope that the settlements will bring greater awareness to and education about steps we should all take to make sure that kids' online experiences are educational, fun, and safe.

At Common Sense Kids Action, we're working every day to make the world a better place for kids. Join our efforts to make kids our nation's top priority -- become a Kids Action Advocate today!

Ariel Fox Johnson
Ariel Fox Johnson is Senior Counsel for Global Policy at Common Sense Media, where she advocates for smart practices, policies, and rules to help all kids thrive in today’s wired world. Her work focuses on enhancing family privacy rights, strengthening students' educational privacy, and promoting robust consumer protections in the online world. She frequently advises policymakers, industry, and tech experts, and has helped develop laws on student privacy, consumer privacy, and the Internet of Things. Ariel is a graduate of Harvard College and Law School. Prior to joining Common Sense, Ariel worked on privacy, media, intellectual property, and technology matters at corporate law firms, and provided pro bono assistance to nonprofits and asylum seekers.