Oath, the owner of AOL and Yahoo, has agreed to pay about $5 million to settle charges from the New York attorney general that the media company’s online advertising business was violating a federal children’s privacy law.
AOL, through its ad exchange, helped place targeted display ads on hundreds of websites that it knew were directed to children under 13, such as Roblox.com and Sweetyhigh.com, according to a settlement that the attorney general’s office plans to announce on Tuesday. The attorney general’s office said that the ads were placed by using personal data, like cookies and geolocation information, in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, which is known as Coppa.
The penalty that the Verizon-owned Oath agreed to pay is the largest a company has paid for a case tied to Coppa. A spokesman for Oath, which did not admit or deny the attorney general’s findings, said, “We are pleased to see this matter resolved and remain wholly committed to protecting children’s privacy online.”
“Coppa is meant to protect young children from being tracked and targeted by advertisers online,” said Barbara D. Underwood, New York’s attorney general. “AOL flagrantly violated the law — and children’s privacy — and will now pay the largest-ever penalty under Coppa.”
The settlement is the latest evidence of the scrutiny internet giants are facing over how they collect and use data from children for online advertising. Google was criticized this year by New Mexico’s attorney general for how it may collect children’s location data, while other privacy advocates have pressed for more transparency about how children may be tracked and targeted for ads on YouTube, which is owned by Google.