New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Tuesday announced a record settlement with Oath, Inc., formerly known as AOL, for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), marking the largest-ever penalty in a COPPA enforcement matter in U.S. history.
The Attorney General’s Office found that AOL conducted billions of auctions for ad space on hundreds of websites the company knew were directed to children under the age of 13. Through these auctions, AOL collected, used, and disclosed personal information from the websites’ users in violation of COPPA, enabling advertisers to track and serve targeted ads to young children.
The company has agreed to adopt comprehensive reforms to protect children from improper tracking and pay a record $4.95 million in penalties, the largest penalty ever in a COPPA enforcement matter in U.S. history.
“COPPA is meant to protect young children from being tracked and targeted by advertisers online. AOL flagrantly violated the law – and children’s privacy – and will now pay the largest-ever penalty under COPPA,” said Underwood.
Oath Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Verizon Communications Inc. Until June 2017, Oath was known as AOL Inc.
In 1998, Congress enacted COPPA to protect the safety and privacy of young children online. COPPA prohibits operators of certain websites from collecting, using, or disclosing personal information (e.g., first and last name, e-mail address) of children under the age of 13 without first obtaining parental consent.