Kids’ Privacy Charges Settled



WASHINGTON — Three companies catering to children on the Internet have agreed to pay $100,000 in fines to settle charges that they violated rules meant to protect the privacy of children online.

The Federal Trade Commission said Thursday that Monarch Services Inc. (MAHI) and Girl’s Life, Inc., operators of girlslife.com; Looksmart Ltd. (LOOK), operator of insidetheweb.com; and Bigmailbox.com Inc. were illegally collecting information that could be used to identify children. Collection of such information from children under 13 without the consent of their parents is a violation of the children’s online-privacy rules.

The companies also agreed to delete all the information collected since the rule became effective in April of last year.

According to the FTC, girlslife.com caters to girls ages nine to 14 with articles, advice, and contests. Partnering with BigMailbox and Looksmart, it also offered free e-mail and online message boards.

But the companies collected names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses without consent, and failed to post privacy policies that complied with the privacy rules. Bigmailbox also provided the personal information to third parties without the required parental consent.

All three operators required children to disclose more information than was needed for participation in the activities offered, in violation of the privacy rules, the FTC said.

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