This week, the New York State Attorney General announced a $4.95 million settlement with Oath Inc., the result of an investigation into violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”).
The NYAG found that Oath’s ad exchanges transferred persistent identifiers and geolocation from website users to DSP bidders in its automated auction process. While that may be fine for websites directed to grown-up audiences, COPPA includes persistent identifiers and geolocation in its definition of “personal information.” And under the law, companies must obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting or using children’s personal information.
But instead of seeking verifiable parental consent, Oath treated all websites (and therefore all user information) the same, despite knowledge that some website inventory on its exchange was directed to children under 13 and subject to COPPA. And instead of using available technology to avoid the use of children’s information altogether, Oath’s ad exchanges allowed advertisers to collect information on children and display ads on sites targeting children. The “flagrant” violations of the law led to the largest-ever penalty under COPPA and a settlement agreement provided some remarkable takeaways: