FTC settles two Internet privacy complaints

The Federal Trade Commission announced settlements of two privacy complaints on Tuesday, adding to a string of enforcement measures over the last year that focus on Internet privacy.

The FTC said Skid-e-kids’, an operator of a social networking site for children, settled a complaint that it collected personal information about 5,600 young users without permission from parents, a violation of children’s online privacy laws.

The consumer protection agency also announced a settlement with online advertiser ScanScout, which was charged with deceptively claiming that consumers could opt out of receiving targeted ads by changing their computer’s web browser settings to block cookies. But ScanScout used Flash cookies that users couldn’t block on their Web browsers.

The announcements come after an investigation into Google’s social networking site Buzz, which ended in a similar settlement. The agency has also brought complaints against Twitter for revealing user passwords after a security breach. The FTC has investigated Facebook’s privacy policies and dropped a probe of Google’s collection of residential data from Wi-fi networks.

But privacy advocates say enforcement isn’t enough to protect consumers. They are pushing for several legislative proposals that would create first-time Internet privacy rules for all users.

The site www.skidekids.com violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by allowing users under 13 to register for the site and provide personal information such as their date of birth, e-mail address, first and last name, and city of residence. According to federal law, companies must get parent’s permission before collecting information about minors.

The FTC said the site’s operator, Jones O. Godwin, made deceptive claims in Skid-e-kids’ privacy policy about its data collection practices.

Godwin agreed to destroy all information he illegally collected about the children. He is required to also link to online educational material for his users and hire a privacy professional to check the site’s services. If he doesn’t abide by the settlement terms, he will be subject to a $100,000 civil penalty, the FTC said.

ScanScout will have to clarify its data collection process and allow users to opt out of being tracked, the FTC said.

Related:

Facebook continues White House, privacy hiring spree

Google’s head of policy, lobbying to leave

Parting with privacy one quick click at a time

Cecilia Kang is a staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment.
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