TRUSTe Settles Probe Over Children's Privacy Certifications

Privacy company TRUSTe will pay $100,000 to settle allegations that it did not adequately evaluate whether sites operated by its customers -- including and -- allowed outside companies to track children, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said this week.

TRUSTe (which stands for True Ultimate Standards Everywhere) also agreed to adopt new measures, Schneiderman said. The settlement comes two years after the Federal Trade Commission and TRUSTe resolved allegations that it misrepresented its practices. That settlement, which required TRUSTe to pay $200,000, stemmed from allegations that it did not conduct around 1,000 annual re-certifications between 2006 and 2013.

TRUSTe is authorized to offer a self-regulatory “safe harbor” program that protects companies from enforcement actions brought under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Since 2013, that law has effectively prohibited Web site operators from using tracking techniques on sites and apps directed to children under the age of 13, without their parents' consent.



The New York Attorney General alleged that TRUSTe did not adequately investigate whether its clients' sites complied with that law. "TRUSTe did not disclose to some of its clients most or all of the third party tracking technologies detected by the electronic scans," Schneiderman's office alleges in papers filed with the court this week. "TRUSTe did not make a reasonable determination as to whether third party tracking technologies present on clients' websites violated COPPA."

The agreement with TRUSTe comes around six months after Schneiderman's office accused Hasbro and three other companies -- Viacom, Mattel and Jumpstart -- of violating a federal law by allowing their sites' young visitors to be tracked by outside companies.

Viacom, Mattel and Jumpstart agreed to pay $835,000 collectively, and to adopt procedures aimed at prohibiting tracking on their sites. Hasbro, which participated in a "safe harbor" program through TRUSTe, wasn't fined.

TRUSTe CEO Chris Babel said in a blog post that Schneiderman's probe focused on a period before the FTC settlement was finalized in March 2015.

"Prior to the FTC Order, we had already begun instituting new certification processes and since that time we have continued to improve our policies, processes and governance practices to address evolving regulatory expectations and customer needs," he wrote.

The company added that most of the agreement with Schneiderman "relates to already well-established business processes that TRUSTe implemented in support of our FTC Order."

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